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From the collection of the 



i a 



San Francisco, California 







New York 





Dedicated to the memory of Thorstein Veblen, 
and to those technicians of the 'word whose 
r< 'conscientious withdrawal of efficiency" may 
yet accomplish that burial of the ad-man's 
pseudoculture which this book contemplates 
with equanimity. 


JAMES RORTY was born March 30, 1890 in 
Middletown, New York. He was educated in 
the public schools, served an early journalistic 
apprenticeship on a daily newspaper in Middle- 
town, and was graduated from Tufts College. 
Mr. Rorty was a copy- writer for an advertising 
agency from 1913 to 1917, at which time he 
enlisted as a stretcher bearer in the United States 
Army Ambulance Service. He was awarded the 
Distinguished Service Cross for service in the 
Argonne offensive. 

Since the war Mr. Rorty has worked variously 
as an advertising copy-writer, publicity man, 
newspaper and magazine free lance. He is the 
author of two books of verse, "What Michael 
Said to the Census Taker" and "Children of 
the Sun", and has contributed to the Nation, 
New Republic, New Masses, Freeman, New 
Freeman, and Harpers. 



PREFACE: / Was an Ad-man Once 3 



3 How IT WORKS: The Endless Chain of Salesmanship 34 

4 PRIMROSE CHEESE: An Advertising Accouchement 45 

5 As ADVERTISED: The Product of Advertising 6$ 


I. The Command to Buy 73 

II. Chromium is More Expensive 8 1 

III. The Ad -man's Pseudoculture 104 


8 THE THREE GRACES : Advertising, Propaganda, Edu- 

cation 145 



10 CHAIN Music: The Truth About the Shavers 190 



1 3 SCIENCE SAYS: Come up and see me some time 231 


15 PSYCHOLOGY ASKS: How am I doing? 241 

1 6 THE MOVIES 252 






22 GOTTERDAMMERUNG: Advertising and the Depression 546 




26 CONCLUSION: Problems and Prospects 381 



TWO BASIC definitions will perhaps assist the reader to 
understand the scope and intent of this book. 

The advertising business is taken to mean the total appara- 
tus of newspaper and magazine publishing in America, plus 
radio broadcasting, and with important qualifications the 
movies; plus the advertising agency structure, car card, pos- 
ter, and direct-by-mail companies, plus the services of supply: 
printing, lithography, engraving, etc. which are largely de- 
pendent upon the advertising business for their existence. 

The advertising technique is taken to mean the technique 
of manufacturing customers by producing systematized illu- 
sions of value or desirability in the minds of the particular 
public at which the technique is directed. 

The book is an attempt, by an advertising man and jour- 
nalist, to tell how and why the traditional conception and 
function of journalism has lapsed in this country. It de- 
scribes the progressive seizure and use, by business, of the 
apparatus of social communication in America. Naturally, 
this story has not been "covered", has not been considered fit 
to print, in any newspaper or magazine dependent for its 
existence upon advertising. 

In attempting to examine the phenomenon of American 
advertising in the context of the culture it became necessary 
to examine the culture itself and even to trace its economic 
and ideological origins. This enlargement of scope necessitated 
a somewhat cursory and inadequate treatment of many de- 
tailed aspects of the subject. The writer accepted this limita- 
tion, feeling that what was chiefly important was to establish, 


if possible, the essential structure and functioning of the 

Since the book is presented not as sociology, but as journal- 
ism, the writer felt free to use satirical and even fictional 
literary techniques for whatever they might yield in the way 
of understanding and emphasis. The writer wishes to ac- 
knowledge gratefully the help and encouragement he has 
received from many friends in and out of the advertising 
business. The section on "The Magazines" is almost wholly 
the work of Winifred Raushenbush and Hal Swanson. 
Thanks are due to Professor Robert Lynd for reading portions 
of the manuscript and for many stimulating suggestions; to 
Professor Sidney Hook for permission to quote from unpub- 
lished manuscripts; to F. J. Schlink and his associates on the 
staff of Consumers' Research for permission to use certain 
data; to Stuart Chase for much useful counsel and encourage- 
ment; to Dr. Meyer Schapiro for valuable criticisms of the 
manuscript and to Elliot E. Cohen for help in revising the 
proofs; to the officials of the Food and Drug Administrations 
for courteously and conscientiously answering questions. 



"I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him." 

"A trading on that range of human infirmities 
that blossoms in devout observances and bears 
fruit in the psychopathic wards." 


"Business succeeds rather better than the state 
in imposing its restraints upon individuals, be- 
cause its imperatives are disguised as choices." 



I Was an Ad-man Once 

IMAGINE, if you can, the New York of 1913. In that year a 
young man just out of college was laying siege to the city 
desks of the metropolitan papers. He had good legs, but his 
past record included nothing more substantial than having 
been fired out of college, and having worked before college, 
and during vacations, on a small-city paper upstate; also on 
a Munsey-owned Boston paper. It was the last count that did 
for him. He couldn't laugh that off anywhere, and funds were 
getting low. 

Finally, a relative got the young man a job as a copy 
writer in an advertising agency, housed near the Battery in an 
ancient loft building which has since been torn down. Per- 
haps it is time to drop the third person. The young man was 
myself. I remember him well, although at this distance both 
the person and his actions seem a little unreal. 

The young man didn't know anybody, or anything much. 
At that time he hadn't even read H. G. Wells' Tono-Bun- 
gay. But he was full of fervor. His father was an Irish 
Fenian who believed to the end of his days that the world 
was just on the point of becoming decent and sensible, and 
the young man, to tell the truth, has had trouble in over- 
coming that paternal misapprehension. 

In those days business had pretty well beaten the muck- 
raking magazines by the painless process of seizing them 
through the business office. But the old Masses was going full 


blast, and the blond beasts of the New Republic were about 
to launch their forays upon the sheepfolds of the Faithful. 

The young man was a Socialist already, in sympathy at 
least, although in the matter of fundamental economics and 
sociology he was as illiterate as most of his contemporaries. 
He was literary; that is to say, he knew Ibsen, and Haupt- 
man, and Shaw, and Jack London, and Samuel Butler even 
a little Nietzsche. Not until some years later did he come to 
know Karl Marx and Thorstein Veblen. 

But life was real and landladies were earnest. The young 
man was hungry. He had a job now and he was taking no 
chances. He was assured that at the end of the month he 
would be paid sixty dollars for his services, in negotiable 
currency. It was up to him to earn that sixty dollars. He was 
young and energetic. During the economy wave under which 
Mr. Munsey extinguished the Boston Journal, he, a cub re- 
porter, had covered as many as three supposedly important 
assignments in one day, being obliged, of course, to steal or 
fake most of his facts. 

The young man was given his first advertising-copy assign- 
ment: to write some forty advertisements commending a 
certain brand of agricultural machinery about which he 
knew nothing whatever. The young man took off his coat. 

I wrote those forty advertisements in three days, with my 
eye on the clock. Three days is ten per cent of thirty days. Ten 
per cent of sixty dollars is six dollars. Were those forty 
advertisements a big enough stint to earn those six dollars? 
Trembling, I turned in my copy ... it was enough for a 

The copy was fully up to current standards, too, as adver- 
tising copy, although of course it went through endless 
meaningless revisions. As news and information it didn't, at 
the time, seem to me to be worth the price. I still don't think 
so. But in those three days I learned all that any bright young 
man needed to know about the mysteries of advertising copy- 


writing in order to earn, in 1929, not sixty dollars a month, 
but a hundred and sixty dollars a week. I say this in the teeth 
of the Harvard School of Business Administration, the ap- 
prentice courses of all the agencies, Dr. John B. Watson, and 
the old sea lion in the Aquarium to whom, in my dazed and 
shaken condition, I turned for comfort and understanding. 

The Aquarium was close at hand. During the noon hour 
I would sit on a bench in Battery Park, eating my necessarily 
frugal lunch of peanuts and chocolate, and then spend the 
remaining half -hour wandering among the glass cases and 
peering at the fishes, who peered back at me with their flat 
eyes and said nothing. Sometimes one of them would turn 
on his side, his gills waving faintly. Nothing to do, nowhere 
to go. We cried our eyes out over each other, I and the other 
poor fishes. 

Then I discovered the sea lion, who occupied a big pool in 
the center of the main floor. The sea lion, I soon became 
convinced, had some kind of an idea. There was a slanting 
float at one end of the pool. He would start at the other end, 
/dive, emerge halfway up the float with a tremendous rush, 
and whoosh! he would blow water on the mob of children and 
adults who crowded around the tank. Always they would 
shriek, giggle, and retreat. Then, gradually, they would come 
back; the sea lion would then repeat the performance with 
precisely the same effect. 

It has taken me years to understand that sea lion. I know 
now that he was an advertising man. Recently, I became 
acquainted with his human reincarnation, one of the ablest, 
most philosophical, and best paid advertising men in New 
York. If there is a "science" of advertising, he has mastered 
it. Yet his formula is very simple. It is this: "Figure out what 
they want, promise 'em everything, and blow hard." 

This philosophical ancient is greatly valued as an instructor 
of the young. His students are very promising, although some 
of them are not wholly literate. He is, however, indulgent of 


their cultural limitations, remarking kindly: "What are a 
few split infinitives between morons?" 

In the annex to the Aquarium where I served my adver- 
tising apprenticeship there were many mansions, housing as 
varied a collection of the human species as I have ever encoun- 
tered together in one place. Through a stroke of luck, the 
agency had started with a nucleus of important accounts and 
expanded rapidly. Its owner, a quiet Swede who never, to 
my knowledge while I was in his employ, wrote a single piece 
of advertising copy himself, became a millionaire in a few 
years. He was, then, an economist, a commercial engineer, an 
executive of tremendous driving power? Not so that anybody 
could notice it. His success is quite unexplainable in terms of 
logic or common sense. I think he was just a "natural." Also, 
he played golf well, but not too well. Puzzling over this 
phenomenon, I remembered hearing the Socialists tell me there 
is no sense in trying to make sense out of the people and 
institutions of our chaotic capitalist civilization. 

Nevertheless, the boss was a natural. Either by shrewdness 
or by accident, he gathered into his organization a consider- 
able number of able and interesting people. They didn't 
know much about advertising. Nobody did in those days. 
Six months after my initiation, the company moved to a 
neighboring skyscraper, and the expanded copy staff soon 
numbered eight people. We all sat in one large room. By right 
of priority, I had a desk next the window where I could look 
out and watch the ferry boats swimming about like water 
beetles, and the tugs pushing liners out to sea, as ants push 
big crumbs. They seemed so earnest, so determined. . . . 
Every now and then an office boy would stroll by and deposit 
in one of the desk baskets a yellow printed form with here 
and there a little typing on it. The form called for one, two, 
six or twelve advertisements about a certain product, to fit 
specified spaces in certain scheduled publications. Usually the 
form was destitute of other information or instruction. 


I think, although I am not sure, that those forms were the 
bequest of an efficiency expert who functioned briefly during 
the early months of my employment. He was a tall, gangling 
man, with a high white brow, a drooping forelock and a rapt 
and questing eye. He dictated inspirational talks to his stenog- 
rapher. While so engaged, he would pace up and down his 
office and quite literally beat his breast. In fact, he had all the 
equipment of a medicine man except the buffalo horns and 
the rattlesnake belt. It was he, I think, who started the idea 
of timing and systematizing the copy production of the office. 
Years after he had left, unfortunate copy writers were still 
digging the splinters of that system out of their pants. 

You got a yellow form, then, which required that you 
write so many pieces of copy and turn them in by a certain 
date. What kind of copy? The form was silent. The headline 
goes at the top, the slug at the bottom and what goes in be- 
tween you rewrite from a booklet or make up out of your 
head. Sometimes an illustration was called for. In such cases 
you conferred with the art director, who was of the opinion 
that you, your words, and especially your ideas about pictures 
were a damned nuisance and so informed you. 

I felt it necessary to resent such acerbities, but I could 
never do so with any great conviction. Privately, I suspected 
that he was right. Sometimes I was tempted to put my hands 
on my hips and retort stoutly, "You're another." But I never 
did so. That would have been to widen the field of discussion 
intolerably. And there were always closing dates to meet. 

Feeling as I did about it, it frequently seemed to me that 
one advertisement would do exactly as well as six. But I 
always wrote six. Anything to keep busy. There were never 
enough yellow forms. 

Sometimes, unable to control my restlessness, I would 
wander upstairs, knock on the door of the account executive's 
office, and ask mildly if anybody knew anything about that 
product and what it was supposed to be used for. I knew 


that many heavy conferences had preceded the planning of 
that campaign. But the decisions reached in those conferences 
never seemed to get typed on that yellow form. Usually I got 
nothing out of such interviews except the suggestion that I 
do some more like last year's, or that an ad was an ad, wasn't 
it, and I was to have six done by Friday. Such admonitions 
were heartbreaking. The ads were already done. Nothing to 
do now except to stew miserably in the juice of my frustrated 

In time, merciful nature came to my aid. I, who was 
normally facile, as even a cub reporter has to be, found that 
writing even a six-line tradepaper advertisement cost me in- 
tolerable effort. My brain wouldn't function. My fingers were 
paralyzed. I was fighting the cold wind of absurdity blowing 
off the waste lands of our American commercial chaos. The 
workman in me had been insulted. Very well, then, he would 
strike. I dawdled. I covered reams of paper with idiotic pencil- 
ings. I missed closing dates and didn't care. My fellow copy 
writers, suffering the same tortures, would go out and get 
drunk. One of them, in fact, who had genuine literary talent, 
ultimately drank himself to death. 

Since I was still a virtuous youth, I had no such escapes. 
Even my health, which had been excellent, was shaken. I 
began mumbling to myself on the street. Once, for three 
weeks, an office associate converted me to Christian Science. 

The Truth and the Light, he said, were in Mrs. Eddy's 
Science and Health, which I accordingly undertook to read 
for several evenings. I do not think I ever got beyond page 
38, although I tried very hard. The difficulty was that it 
didn't make sense at first reading, so that on resuming the 
book I was always obliged to start over again from the begin- 
ning. It was like driving a model T Ford uphill through sand. 
At the end of three weeks I was utterly exhausted, and sleep- 
ing soundly, but unable to bear another word of Mary Baker 


I cite the episode merely to indicate how acute was my 
condition. If my friend had been a Holy Roller, I think I 
would have rolled for him cheerfully. 

The workman in me was paralyzed. Even when, outside the 
office, I tried to write poetry and plays the words and ideas 
stared coldly at me from the page. 

But the reformer in me still lived and was shortly to have 
his inning. The house acquired as a client a company manu- 
facturing a proprietary remedy. As it happened, it was an 
excellent product, which, minus its proprietary name, was 
much used and recommended by the medical profession. 
There was my chance. I would make the advertising of that 
product honest. I did make it honest, for a while. I had every 
word of my copy censored by representative medical men. 
I fought everybody in the office, singly and in groups. I was 
obsessed, invincible and absurd. 

But the client became impatient sales weren't growing 
as fast as he thought they should. He hired as advertising 
manager an experienced and entirely unscrupulous patent- 
medicine salesman a leather-hided saurian who scrapped all 
my carefully censored copy and furnished as a model for 
future advertising an illiterate screed recommending the prod- 
uct, directly or by implication, as a cure for everything from 
tuberculosis to athlete's foot. 

I threw him out of my office. I rushed over to the client 
and talked very crudely to a very eminent gentleman. Even 
that wasn't enough. I considered blowing the works to the 
organized medical profession, although I never actually did 
so. Instead, I wrote a furious and entirely unactable play 
about a patent medicine wage-slave who went straight and 
took a correspondence course in burglary. 

I wasn't fired, although logically I should have been. The 
President of the United States had just declared war, and in 
the confusion I escaped into the army as a buck private. Even 


the war, I thought, was more rational than the advertising 
business. I was wrong, but that is another story. 

I was an ad -man once. Indeed, I am, in a small way, an 
ad -man still, although I no longer carry a spear in the 
monotonously hilarious spectacles which the orthodox priests 
continue sweatingly to produce in the Byzantine, Chino- 
Spanish and Dada-Gothic temples of advertising which crowd 
the Grand Central district of New York. 

I still practice, however, after my fashion. My motto, "The 
Less Advertising the Better," appeals poignantly to certain 
eminent industrialists to whom I have talked. My sales argu- 
ment goes something like this: 

"Mr. Hoffschnagel, you and I are practical men. I don't 
need to tell you that advertising is not an end in itself. 
Neither is selling. The end, Mr. Hoffschnagel, the true objec- 
tive of the manufacturer and dispenser of products and 
services, should be the efficient and economical delivery to the 
consumer of precisely what the consumer wants and needs: 
what the consumer needs to buy, I repeat, not what the 
manufacturer needs to sell him. In any functional relation- 
ship between producer and consumer, advertising and sales 
expenditures are just so much frictional loss; in the ideal set- 
up, which of course we can't even approximate under present 
conditions, released buying energy would be substituted en- 
tirely for the selling energy which you now spend in breaking 
down 'sales resistance.' My task, therefore, is to redefine and 
reinterpret your relationship with your customers; not to pile 
up sales and advertising expenses" Mr. Hoffschnagel nods 
energetically "but to cut them. What do your customers 
want from you? Service! What do you want to give them? 
Service! Not advertising the less advertising the better 
that's just so much friction and loss. But service! The end, 
Mr. Hoffschnagel, the end is service!" 

Mr. Hoffschnagel meditates, while as if unconsciously his 
hand strays to the right-hand drawer of his desk. 


"Have a drink," says Mr. Hoffschnagel. 

It is possible to get a good deal of hospitality in this way, 
and even some business. Sometimes, as I listen to myself talk, 
I sound like one of these newly spawned capitalist economic 
planners. I am not. I know, or think I know, that the adver- 
tising business, with all of its wastes and chicaneries intact, 
is woven into the very fabric of our competitive economic 
system; that the only equilibrium possible for such a system 
is the unstable equilibrium of accelerating change, with the 
ad-man's foot on the throttle, speeding up consumption, 
preaching emulative expenditure, "styling" clothes, kitchens, 
automobiles everything, in the interest of more rapid ob- 
solescence and replacement. Up to a certain point it is possible 
to build, and after the inevitable crash, to rebuild such a sys- 
tem always with a progressive and cumulative intensifica- 
tion of wastes and conflicts. It is not possible to operate such 
a system sanely and permanently, because its underlying eco- 
nomic and social premises are obsolete in the modern world. 

If this is so even some advertising men apprehend that it 
may be so then it would be, perhaps, not a bad idea, if 
ad-men removed their tongues from their long-swollen cheeks 
and tried talking approximate sense for a change. It wouldn't 
do much if any immediate good, of course, but it might pro- 
vide a desirable mental discipline, a kind of intellectual prep- 
aration for the severer disciplines which the future may hold 
in store for the profession. 

As a matter of fact, the abler people in advertising are be- 
coming increasingly mature, realistic, and cynical. They 
don't believe in the racket themselves. But they insist that 
the guinea pigs, not merely the consumers outside the office, 
but the minor employees inside the office, must believe in it. 
The role of the advertising agency guinea pig the minor 
copy writer, layout man, forwarding clerk or other carrier 
of messages to Garcia is hard indeed. The outside guinea 
pig, the consumer, can't be fired. But the inside guinea pig 


can be and is fired unless he is utterly and sincerely credulous 
and faithful. A good, loyal guinea pig is a pearl without 
price in any agency. I am even told that in some of the larger 
agencies, eugenic experiments are being conducted with the 
idea ultimately of breeding advertising guinea pigs, or pearls 
I admit the metaphor is hopelessly mixed who will come 
into the world crying "It Pays To Advertise". 

To such heights of fantasy are we lifted by an attempt to 
examine the phenomenon of contemporary advertising in 
America. It is not, as contemporary liberal historians and 
social critics have tended to regard it, a superficial phenom- 
enon: a carbuncular excrescence of our acquisitive society, 
curable by appropriate reformist treatment, or perhaps by 
a minor operation. 

A book about advertising therefore becomes inevitably a 
critique of the society. 

Much of the data presented in this book I have gathered in 
my personal experience as an employee of various advertising 
agencies. If some of this material seems absurd, even incredible 
to the lay reader, I can only reply, helplessly, that I did not 
make the advertising business; nobody made it; that is why 
it is so absurd. Whether one regards the advertising business 
as farce or as tragedy, one is convinced that the play is badly 
made; there are no heroes and the villains have a way of turn- 
ing into victims under one's eyes; none of them is consistently 
bad, consistently sad or even consistently funny. 

As I shall try to show in a later section entitled "The 
Natural History of Advertising," the advertising business 
just grew. It is the economic and cultural causes, the economic 
and cultural consequences of this growth that I shall try to 
describe in this book. 





THE title of this chapter; was chosen, not so much to parody 
the title of Mr. Bruce Barton's widely-read volume of New 
Testament exegesis, as to suggest that, in the lack of serious 
critical study, we really know very little about advertising: 
how the phenomenon happened to achieve its uniquely huge 
and grotesque dimensions in America; how it has affected our 
individual and social psychology as a people; what its role 
is likely to be in the present rapidly changing pattern of social 
and economic forces. 

The advertising business is quite literally the business no- 
body knows; nobody, including, or perhaps more especially, 
advertising men. As evidence of this general ignorance, one 
has only to cite a few of the misapprehensions which have 
confused the very few contemporary economists, sociologists 
and publicists who have attempted to treat the subject. 

Perhaps the chief of these misapprehensions is that of re- 
garding advertising as merely the business of preparing and 
placing advertisements in the various advertising media: the 
daily and periodical press, the mails, the radio, motion picture, 
car cards, posters, etc. The error here is that of mistaking a 
function of the thing for the thing itself. It would be much 
more accurate to say that our daily and periodical press, plus 
the radio and other lesser media, are the advertising business. 
The commercial press is supported primarily by advertising 
roughly the ratio as between advertising income and sub- 


scription and news-stand sales income averages about two to 
one. It is quite natural, therefore, that the publishers of news- 
papers and magazines should regard their enterprises as ad- 
vertising businesses. As a matter of fact, every advertising 
man knows that they do so regard them and so conduct them. 
These publishers are business men, responsible to their stock- 
holders, and their proper and necessary concern is to make a 
maximum of profit out of these business properties. They do 
this by using our major instruments of social communication, 
whose free and disinterested functioning is embodied in the 
concept of a democracy, to serve the profit interests of the 
advertisers who employ and pay them. Within certain limits 
they give their readers and listeners the sort of editorial 
content which experience proves to be effective in building 
circulations and audiences, these to be sold in turn at so much 
a head to advertisers. The limits are that regardless of the 
readers' or listeners' true interests, nothing can be given them 
which seriously conflicts with the profit-interests of the ad- 
vertisers, or of the vested industrial and financial powers 
back of these; also nothing can be given them which seriously 
conflicts with the use and wont, embodied in law and custom, 
of the competitive capitalist economy and culture. 

In defining the advertising business it must be remembered 
also that newspapers and magazines use paper and ink: a huge 
bulk of materials, a ramified complex of services by printers, 
lithographers, photographers, etc. Radio uses other categories 
of materials and services the whole art of radio was origi- 
nally conceived of as a sales device to market radio transmit- 
ters and receiving sets. All these services are necessary to adver- 
tising and advertising is necessary to them. These are also the 
advertising business. Surely it is only by examining this 
business as a whole that we can expect to understand anything 
about it. 

The second misapprehension is that invidious moral value 
judgments are useful in appraising the phenomena. Adver- 

tising is merely an instrument of sales promotion. Good ad- 
vertising is efficient advertising advertising which promotes 
a maximum of sales for a minimum of expenditure. Bad ad- 
vertising is inefficient advertising, advertising which accom- 
plishes its purpose wastefully or not at all. All advertising is 
obviously special pleading. Why should it be considered perti- 
nent or useful to express surprise and indignation because 
special pleading, whether in a court of law, or in the public 
prints, is habitually disingenuous, and frequently unscrupu- 
lous and deceptive? Yet liberal social critics, economists and 
sociologists, have wasted much time complaining that adver- 
tising has "elevated mendacity to the status of a profession." 
The pressure of competition forces advertisers and the adver- 
tising agencies who serve them to become more efficient; to 
advertise more efficiently frequently means to advertise more 
mendaciously. Do these liberal critics want advertising to be 
less efficient? Do they want advertisers to observe standards 
of ethics, morals and taste which would, under our existing 
institutional setup, result either in depriving stockholders of 
dividends, or in loading still heavier costs on the consumer? 
There is, of course, a third alternative, which is neither 
good advertising nor bad advertising, but no advertising. But 
that is outside the present institutional setup. It should be ob- 
vious that in the present (surplus economy) phase of Ameri- 
can capitalism, advertising is an industry no less essential than 
steel, coal, or electric power. If one defines advertising as the 
total apparatus of American publishing and broadcasting, it 
is in fact among the twelve greatest industries in the country. 
It is, moreover, one of the most strategically placed indus- 
tries. Realization of this fact should restrain us from loose 
talk about "deflating the advertising business." How would 
one go about organizing "public opinion" for such an enter- 
prise when the instruments of social communication by which 
public opinion must be shaped and organized are themselves 
the advertising business? 


As should be apparent from the foregoing, the writer has 
only a qualified interest in "reforming" advertising. Obviously 
it cannot be reformed without transforming the whole in- 
stitutional context of our civilization. The bias of the writer 
is frankly in favor of such a transformation. But the im- 
mediate task in this book is one of description and analysis. 
Although advertising is forever in the public's eye and in 
its ear too, now that we have radio the average layman con- 
fines himself either to applauding the tricks of the ad-man, 
or to railing at what he considers to be more or less of a pub- 
lic nuisance. In neither case does he bother to understand 
what is being done to him, who is doing it, and why. 

The typical view of an advertisement is that it is a selling 
presentation of a product or service, to be judged as "good" 
or "bad" depending upon whether the presentation is ac- 
curate or inaccurate, fair or deceptive. But to an advertising 
man, this seems a very shallow view of the matter. 

Advertising has to do with the shaping of the economic, 
social, moral and ethical patterns of the community into 
serviceable conformity with the profit-making interests of 
advertisers and of the advertising business. Advertising thus 
becomes a body of doctrine. Veblen defined advertisements 
as "doctrinal memoranda," and the phrase is none the less 
precise because of its content of irony. It is particularly ap- 
plicable to that steadily increasing proportion of advertising 
classified as "inter-industrial advertising": that is to say, ad- 
vertising competition between industries for the consumer's 
dollar. What such advertising boils down to is special plead- 
ing, directed at the consumer by vested property interests, 
concerning the material, moral and spiritual content of the 
Good Life. In this special pleading the editorial contents of 
the daily and periodical press, and the sustaining programs of 
the broadcasters, are called upon to do their bit, no less man- 
fully, though less directly than the advertising columns or 
the sponsor's sales talk. Such advertising, as Veblen pointed 


out, is a lineal descendant of the "Propaganda of the Faith." 
It is a less unified effort, and less efficient because of the con- 
flicting pressure groups involved; also because of the disrup- 
tive stresses of the underlying economic forces of our time. 
Yet it is very similar in purpose and method. 

An important point which the writer develops in detail in 
later chapters is that advertising is an effect resulting from 
the unfolding of the economic processes of modern capitalism, 
but becomes in turn a cause of sequential economic and social 
phenomena. The earlier causal chain is of course apparent. 
Mass production necessitated mass distribution which ne- 
cessitated mass literacy, mass communication and mass ad- 
vertising. But the achieved result, mass advertising, becomes 
in turn a generating cause of another sequence. Mass adver- 
tising perverts the integrity of the editor-reader relationship 
essential to the concept of a democracy. Advertising doctrine 
always remembering that the separation of the editorial 
and advertising contents of a modern publication is for the 
most part formal rather than actual is a doctrine of material 
emulation, keeping up with the Joneses, conspicuous waste. 
Mass advertising plus, of course, the government mail subsidy, 
makes possible the five-cent price for national weeklies, the 
ten- to thirty-five-cent price for national monthlies. Because 
of this low price and because of the large appropriations for 
circulation-promotion made possible by advertising income, 
the number of mass publications and the volume of their 
circulation has hugely increased. These huge circulations are 
maintained by editorial policies dictated by the requirements 
of the advertisers. Such policies vary widely but have certain 
elements in common. Articles, fiction, verse, etc., are con- 
ceived of as "entertainment." This means that controversial 
subjects are avoided. The contemporary social fact is not 
adequately reported, interpreted, or criticized; in fact the 
run of commercial magazines and newspapers are extraordi- 
narily empty of social content. On the positive side, their con- 


tent, whether fiction, articles or criticism, is definitely shaped 
toward the promotion and fixation of mental and emotional 
patterns which predispose the reader to an acceptance of the 
advertiser's doctrinal message. 

This secondary causal chain therefore runs as follows: Mass 
advertising entails the perversion of the editor-reader rela- 
tionship; it entails reader-exploitation, cultural malnutrition 
and stultification. 

This situation came to fruition during the period just be- 
fore, during and after the war; a period of rapid technical, 
economic and social change culminating in the depression of 
1929. At precisely the moment in our history when we needed 
a maximum of open-minded mobility in public opinion, we 
found a maximum of inertia embodied in our instruments of 
social communication. Since these have become advertising 
businesses, and competition is the life of advertising, they have 
a vested interest in maintaining and promoting the competi- 
tive acquisitive economy and the competitive acquisitive social 
psychology. Both are essential to advertising, but both are 
becoming obsolete in the modern world. In contemporary 
sociological writing we find only vague and passing reference 
to this crucial fact, which is of incalculable influence in de- 
termining the present and future movement of social forces 
in America. 

In later chapters the writer will be found dealing coinci- 
dentally with advertising, propaganda and education. Con- 
temporary liberal criticism tends to regard these as separate 
categories, to be separately studied and evaluated. But in the 
realm of contemporary fact, no such separation exists. All 
three are instruments of rule. Our ruling class, representing 
the vested interests of business and finance, has primary access 
to and control over all these instruments. One supplements 
the other and they are frequently used coordinately. Liberal 
sociologists would attempt to set up the concept of education, 
defined as a disinterested objective effort to release capacity, 


as a contrasting opposite to propaganda and advertising. In 
practice no such clear apposition obtains, or can obtain, as is 
in fact acknowledged by some of our most distinguished 
contemporary educators. 

There is nothing unique, isolate or adventitious about the 
contemporary phenomena of advertising. Your ad-man is 
merely the particular kind of eccentric cog which the ma- 
chinery of a competitive acquisitive society required at a par- 
ticular moment of its evolution. He is, on the average, much 
more intelligent than the average business man, much more 
sophisticated, even much more socially minded. But in mov- 
ing day after day the little cams and gears that he has to 
move, he inevitably empties himself of human qualities. His 
daily traffic in half-truths and outright deceptions is subtly 
and cumulatively degrading. No man can give his days to 
barbarous frivolity and live. And ad-men don't live. They 
become dull, resigned, hopeless. Or they become daemonic 
fantasts and sadists. They are, in a sense, the intellectuals, 
the male hetserae of our American commercial culture. Mer- 
ciful nature makes some of them into hale, pink-fleshed, 
speech-making morons. Others become gray-faced cynics and 
are burned out at forty. Some "unlearn hope" and jump out 
of high windows. Others become extreme political and social 
radicals, either secretly while they are in the business, or 
openly, after they have left it. 

This, then, is the advertising business. The present volume is 
merely a reconnaissance study. In addition to wKat is indicated 
by the foregoing, some technical material is included on the 
organization and practices of the various branches of the 
business. Some attempt is made to answer the questions: how 
did it happen that America offered a uniquely favorable cul- 
ture-bed for the development of the phenomena described? 
What are the foreign equivalents of our American rule-by- 
advertising? How will advertising be affected by the present 
trend toward state capitalism, organized in the corporative 


forms of fascism, and how will the social inertias nourished 
and defended by advertising condition that trend? 

The writer also attempts tentative measurements of the 
mental levels of various sections of the American population, 
using the criteria provided by our mass and class publications. 
Advertising men are obliged to make such measurements as 
a part of their business; they are frequently wrong, but since 
their conclusions are the basis of more or less successful busi- 
ness practice they are worthy of consideration. 

The one conclusion which the writer offers in all serious- 
ness is that the advertising business is in fact the Business 
Nobody Knows. The trails marked out in this volume are 
brief and crude. It is hoped that some of our contemporary 
sociologists may be tempted to clear them a little further. 
Although, of course, there is always the chance that the swift 
movement of events may eliminate or rather transform that 
particular social dilemma, making all such studies academic, 
even archaic. In that case it might happen that ad-men 
would be preserved chiefly as museum specimens, to an ap- 
preciation of which this book might then serve as a moder- 
ately useful guide. 

Advertising has, of course, a very ancient history. But 
since the modern American phenomenon represents not 
merely a change in degree but a change in kind, the chrono- 
logical tracing of its evolution would be only confusing. It 
has seemed better first to survey the contemporary phenomena 
in their totality and then present in a later chapter the 
limited amount of historical data that seemed necessary and 




WHEN we come to describe and measure the apparatus of 
advertising, some more or less arbitrary breakdown is neces- 
sary. Let us therefore start with the advertising agency, which 
is the hub of the advertising business proper, where all the 
lines converge. We shall then draw concentric circles, repre- 
senting increasingly remote but genuinely related institutions, 
people and activities. 

In Advertising Agency Compensation Professor James A. 
Young, of the University of Chicago, estimates that in 1932 
there were 2,000 recognized national and local advertising 
agencies engaged in the preparation and placing of newspaper, 
magazine, direct-by-mail, carcard, poster, radio and all mis- 
cellaneous advertising. These 2,000 agencies served 16,573 
advertisers. Advertisers served by agencies having recognition 
by individual publishers only are excluded from this estimate. 

Prof. Young estimates the 1930 volume of advertising 
placed through 440 recognized agencies at $600,000,000. An 
additional 370 agencies placed $37,000,000 in that year. The 
trend during the post-war decade was steadily toward the 
concentration of the business in the larger agencies with a 
further concentration brought about by mergers of some 
of these already large units. 

In 1930 there were six agencies doing an annual business 
of $20,000,000 or over, and fourteen with an annual volume 
of from $5,000,000 to $20,000,000. A further indication of 


the trend is contained in the figures showing the advertising 
income of American Magazine, Colliers, Saturday Evening 
Post, Delineator, Good Housekeeping, Ladies 9 Home Journal, 
McCalls and Woman's Home Companion. In 1922, 57.8 per 
cent of the combined advertising income of these publications 
came from the ten leading agencies. In 1931 this proportion 
had risen to 68.3 per cent. 

A similar trend toward concentration in the sources of 
advertising revenue is apparent. Advertisers spending between 
$10,000 and $100,000 annually dropped from 43.8 per cent 
of the total volume in 1921 to 21.1 per cent of the total 
volume in 1930. Advertisers spending between $100,000 and 
$1,000,000 annually increased from 51.3 per cent of the total 
volume in 1921 to 55.9 per cent in 1930. Finally, advertisers 
spending over a million a year increased their percentage of 
the total volume from 4.9 per cent in 1921 to 23 per cent in 

The agency employee, whether he writes advertising copy, 
draws advertising pictures or is concerned with one of many 
routine, mechanical and clerical processes of the agency traf- 
fic, must be listed as an advertising person; he makes his 
living directly out of the advertising business. 

The manufacturer's or merchant's advertising staff is also 
clearly to be listed as a part of the personnel of the advertising 

A publisher's representative, or "space salesman", is also 
clearly an advertising man; so is the circulation promotion 
manager and his staff his budget is an advertising budget. 
But how about the editorial department of the newspaper or 
magazine? Here we are on debatable ground. If the news- 
paper or magazine is primarily an advertising business, since 
most of its income is derived from advertisers, and all of its 
activities, editorial and otherwise, are finally evaluated accord- 
ing to the degree of their utility in making the publication 
an effective and profitable advertising medium, then the total 


taff of the publication is an advertising staff; they too make 
their livings out of the advertising business. 

Without attempting to settle the question, let us first con- 
sider certain statistical trends which show clearly enough the 
progressive transformation of our daily and periodical press 
into advertising businesses. 

In 1909, 63 per cent of newspaper income and 5 1.6 per cent 
of magazine income was from advertising. By 1929 the pro- 
portion of advertising income had moved sharply upward to 
74.1 per cent for newspapers and 63.4 per cent for periodicals. 
Approximately three-quarters of the newspaper's dollar and 
two-thirds of the periodical's dollar came from advertisers. 

To correspond with this trend we should expect to find a 
certain re-orientation of the function of the newspaper and 
periodical press, and that is precisely what we do find. The 
reader is asked to follow a digression at this point, since it is 
important to the general argument. 

Increasingly over the past thirty years we find the news- 
paper asserting its freedom in political terms. Coincidentally, 
of course, it has come more and more under the hegemony of 
business exercised through advertising contracts to be either 
given or withheld. In 1900, 732 dailies acknowledged them- 
selves to be "democratic" and 801, "republican." By 1930, 
papers labeled "independent democrat" and "independent re- 
publican" had increased fivefold, while papers pretending to 
be "independent" politically jumped from 377 in 1900 to 
792 in 1930, when such papers constituted the largest single 
category. In commenting on this trend Messrs. Willey and 
Rice remark, in Recent Social Trends: 

This increase in claimed political independence may indicate that 
the newspaper is becoming less important as an adjunct of the 
political party, that it seeks greater editorial freedom, or that it 
desires to include various political adherents within its circulation 
and advertising clientele. 

The italics are the writer's. What this statistical trend 
would appear to show, especially when coupled with the co- 
ordinate increase of the newspaper's dependence upon adver- 
tising income, is that the newspapers have realistically adapted 
themselves to the exigencies of a changing social and economic 
situation. This holds almost equally true of the periodicals. 
Politics as a means of government was definitely recessive 
during this period, and public interest in politics correspond- 
ingly declined. The powers of government were shifting to 
business. Hence the press became more and more "free." It 
freed itself from involvement with the nominal rulers, the 
political parties, in order that it might be free to court the 
patronage of the real rulers, the vested interests of business, 
industry, finance; in return for this patronage, the press be- 
came increasingly an instrument of rule operated in behalf 
of business. The press, being itself a profit-motivated business 
was in fact obliged to achieve this transition; to orient itself 
to the emerging focus of power, and to become in fact though 
not in name, an advertising business. In essence, what hap- 
pened was that both major political parties had become, in 
respect to the class interests which they represented, one 
party, the party of business; the press, as an advertising 
medium, tended to represent that party. 

Taking 1909 to 1929 as representing the crucial period of 
this transition we find that in 1909 the volume of newspaper 
advertising was $149,000,000 and of periodical advertising 
$54,000,000. By 1929 the figures were $792,000,000 for 
newspaper advertising and $320,000,000 for periodical adver- 
tising. Except for the movies, the automobile, and the radio, 
no other major American industry has rivaled the swift 
expansion of the advertising business. 

We have then a combined total of $1,112,000,000 as the 
contribution of newspaper and magazine advertisers to the 
advertising "pot." In computing the total contents of this 
pot we must duly add at least $75,000,000 for time on the 

air bought by advertisers from commercial broadcasters. The 
radio, since all its income is derived from advertisers, must 
be rated as essentially an advertising business. We must add 
$400,000,000 for direct-by-mail advertising, $75,000,000 for 
outdoor advertising, $20,000,000 for street-car advertising, 
$75,000,000 for business papers, and $25,000,000 for pre- 
miums, programs, directories, etc. The foregoing are 1927 
figures cited by Copeland in Recent Economic Changes. Ad- 
vertising volume in all categories went up in 1928 and 1929 
and radio volume continued to go up during the first three 
years of the depression. Also in these figures no allowance is 
made for radio talent bought and paid for by the advertiser, 
and none for art and mechanical costs of printed advertising, 
billed by the agency to the advertiser with a i5-per-cent com- 
mission added. Hence Copeland's grand total of $1,782,- 
000,000 for all advertising must be taken as a very conserva- 
tive estimate of the peak volume of the business. Two billion 
would probably be closer. As to the number of workers 
engaged in the various branches of the business, detailed 
estimates are difficult to get, chiefly because of the confusion 
of categories. 

The General Report on Occupations of the I5th Census 
gives figures of 5,453 men and 400 women as the personnel of 
advertising agencies, but under Advertising Agents and Other 
Pursuits in the Trade the figures are 43,364 men and 5,656 
women. Printing, publishing and engraving must be consid- 
ered as in large part services of supply for the advertising 
business as above defined, and the personnel of these trades, 
including printers, compositors, linotypers, typesetters, elec- 
trotypers, stereotypers, lithographers and engravers totals 
269,030 men and 33,333 women. In 1927 printing, publish- 
ing and allied industries ranked as the fifth industry in the 
United States with a total volume of $2,094,000,000. 

The question, who is or is not connected with the adver- 
tising business is indeed baffling. Is the printer, who makes all 

or most of his living out of the advertising business, an adver- 
tising man? How about the engraver, the lithographer, the 
matmaker, the makers and sellers of paper and ink all the 
hordes of people who as producers, service technicians, sales- 
men, clerks operate back of the lines as advertising's Service 
of Supplies? Many of these people, especially the salesmen, 
certainly think of themselves as advertising people. They are 
members in good standing of Advertising Clubs. Toss a 
chocolate eclair into the air at any Thursday noon luncheon 
of the Advertising Club of Kenosha, Wisconsin, or Muncie, 
Indiana, and the chances are three to one it will land on a 
printer or on an engraver. They are there strictly on business, 
of course, and their dues are carried as part of the firm's over- 
head. But how they believe in advertising! 

Spread the net a little more widely and all kinds of strange 
fish flop and writhe in the meshes of advertising. The Alumni 
Secretary of dear Old Siwash is he an advertising man? No? 
Then why is he a member of the local advertising club? And 
how about the football squad, their trainer, coach, waterboy, 
cheer-leaders, etc. are they advertising men? Well, the team 
advertises the college, and, by general agreement, is main- 
tained chiefly for that purpose. Why, then, isn't the personnel 
involved an advertising personnel? 

Then there are the advertising departments of our numer- 
ous university-sanctioned Schools of Business Administration. 
Are these fellows advertising men or educators? Dr. Abraham 
Flexner maintains that they are not educators, while prac- 
tical agency heads insist with equal energy that they are not 
advertising men. But they can't belong to nobody and the 
writer's guess is that they must, however reluctantly, be 
categoried as part of the personnel of the advertising business. 

Hastening back to firm ground, we can agree that adver- 
tising copy-writers employed by agencies or advertisers are 
unmistakably advertising men. So are the fellows who sell 
space in publications. But how about the staffs of the various 


institutes, bureaus, etc., such as Good Housekeeping Insti- 
tute, whose job is to test and pass on the products and ap- 
pliances advertised in the publication? The raison d'etre of 
such departments is that they nourish the confidence of the 
reader and thus increase the value of the publication to the 
advertiser. Are these fellows scientists, engineers or advertis- 
ing men? 

Without attempting to answer this embarrassing question, 
let us go across the hall or upstairs to the editorial department 
of a modern publication. The "travel editor" is busy comput- 
ing the current and prospective lineage bought by various 
steamship and railroad lines. On the result of this computa- 
tion will depend whether next month she will praise the joys 
of California's sun-kist climate or the more de luxe attrac- 
tions of the Riviera. Is the young woman an editor, a literary 
person or an advertising woman? 

The fiction editor has on his desk a very suitable manu- 
script. It has neither literary nor other distinction, but the 
subject matter and treatment are excellent from a pragmatic 
point of view. The story tells how a young man was nobody 
and got nowhere until he bought some well-tailored clothes; 
with the aid of these clothes and other items of conspicuous 
waste, he established his social status and shrewdly used his 
newly-won acquaintances to promote his business career. He 
ends up as partner in the firm where he was formerly a de- 
spised bookkeeper. Moral: it pays to wear smart clothes, even 
if you have to go in debt to buy them. The story is in effect an 
excellent institutional advertisement for the men's clothing 
industry, and will be so regarded by present and prospective 
clothing advertisers. Is its author a literary man or an adver- 
tising man? Is the editor who chose this story, for the reasons 
indicated above, an editor and critic or an advertising man? 
The story will be illustrated by an artist who specializes in 
his knowledge of styles in men's clothing. When he makes his 
illustrations he will have before him as "scrap" the latest 

catalogues of the clothing houses. Is he an artist, an illustrator 
or an advertising man? 

It may seem unkind to press the point, but we have barely 
begun to list the peripheral personnel of the advertising busi- 
ness. The electrician who repairs the neon signs on Broadway 
is he an electrician or an advertising man? The truck driver 
who delivers huge rolls of paper to the press rooms of the 
newspapers where would he be, but for the advertising busi- 
ness that keeps those presses busy dirtying that paper? And 
the bargemen who floated that newsprint across the Hudson? 
And the train crew that freighted it down from Maine? And 
the loggers in the Maine woods that supply the pulp mills? 
And the writers for the "pulps" who go to Maine for their 

It is not necessary to project this unbroken continuity into 
the realm of fantasy. Both in respect to the number of per- 
sons employed and the total value of manufactured products, 
advertising is, or was in 1929, one of the twelve major indus- 
tries of the country. We are living in a fantastic ad-man's 
civilization, quite as truly as we are living in what historians 
are pleased to call a machine age, and a very cursory examina- 
tion of the underlying economic trends will be sufficient to 
show how we got there. 

The essential dynamic of course is the emergence of our 
"surplus economy" predicament, generated by the applica- 
tion of our highly developed technology to production for 
profit. Advertising played a more or less functional though 
barbaric and wasteful role during the whole expansionist era 
of American capitalism. The obsolescence, the reductio ad ab- 
surdum of advertising is betrayed by the exaggerations, the 
grotesqueries, which accompanied its period of greatest ex- 
pansion during the postwar decade. Like many another social 
institution, it flowered most impressively at the very moment 
when its roots had been cut by the shift of the underlying 
economic forces. 


Between 1870 and 1930 several millions of people were 
squeezed out of production. Where did they go? The statis- 
tical evidence is plain. In 1870 about 75 per cent of the gain- 
fully employed people of the United States were engaged in 
the production of physical goods in agriculture, mining, man- 
ufacture and construction. In 1930 only about 50 per cent 
of the labor supply was so required. In 1870, ten per cent of 
the employed population was engaged in transportation and 
distribution. In 1930, 20 per cent was engaged in transporta- 
tion and distribution. What caused this shift was chiefly the 
increase in man-hour productivity made possible by improve- 
ments in machine technology and in the technique of man- 
agement. The chapter on "Trends in Economic Organization" 
by Edwin F. Gay and Leo Wolman in Recent Social Trends 
documents this increase as follows: 

The combined physical production of agriculture and of the 
manufacturing, mining and construction industries increased 34 
per cent from 1922 to 1929. . . . The advance in output was 
steady throughout the period and even in the recession years, 1924 
and 1927, the decline was surprisingly small. Much more impor- 
tant, however, is the comparison between the rate of increase in 
physical output in the prewar and postwar periods. Per capita out- 
put, reflecting retardation in the rate of population growth, as 
well as the rise in production, advanced twice as fast in the later 
years as in the earlier, as is indicated by the average annual rate of 

Volume of Per capita 

Period production Population production 

per cent per cent per cent 

1901-1913 +3' 1 H" 2 ' 1 H" 1 - 1 

1922-1929 +3.8 +1.4 +2.4 

Although real wage levels rose slightly during this period 
they did not rise proportionately to the increase in man-hour 
productivity, the increase in profits, the increase in plant in- 


vestment, and the increase in capital claims upon the product 
of industry. The result of these conflicting trends was to 
place an increasing burden upon the machinery of selling. 
This is reflected in the rising curve of sales overhead, the 
increase in small loan credit and installment selling and the 
meteoric rise of advertising expenditure during the post-war 
period. According to the estimate of Robert Lynd in Recent 
Social Trends the total volume of retail installment sales in 
1910 was probably under a billion dollars. By 1929 it had 
increased to seven billion dollars. 

Undoubtedly this six-billion-dollar shot in the arm post- 
poned the crisis, intensified its severity and contributed im- 
portantly to the Happy Days of advertising during the New 
Era. After the crash it was of course the ad-men who were 
urged to put Humpty-Dumpty back on the wall. They tried 
manfully, but since it is impossible to advertise a defunct 
buying power back into existence, they didn't succeed. And 
now, after four years of depression it would appear that the 
ad-man has learned nothing and forgotten nothing. 

That two-billion-dollar advertising budget is a lot of 
money. In 1929 it represented about two per cent of the 
national income for that year, or $15 per capita. It might 
well be alleged that the bill was high, would have been high 
even for a competently administered service of information. 
And, as already indicated, advertising is scarcely that. What 
that two billion represented, what the present billion and a 
half advertising volume represents, is in considerable part the 
tax which business levies on the consumer to support the 
machinery of its super-government the daily and periodical 
press, the radio, the apparatus of advertising as we have 
described it. By this super-government the economic, social, 
ethical and cultural patterns of the population are shaped 
and controlled into serviceable conformity to the profit - 
motivated interests of business. 

Our notoriously extravagant official government is really 


much more modest, considering that it gives us in return 
such tangible values as roads, sewers, water, schools, police 
and fire departments, and such grandiose luxuries as the 
army and navy. The combined tax bill of the nation, Federal, 
State, and local, amounted to only $10,077,000,000 in 1930 
or roughly about $75 per capita. 

It will be argued, of course, that even if advertising is 
thrown out of court as a service of information, since that is 
neither its intent nor its effect, nevertheless this two-billion- 
dollar industry does net us something. But for advertising, 
we should not be able to enjoy the radio free, or read the 
Saturday Evening Post at five cents a copy, or Mr. Hearst's 
American Weekly, which is thrown in free with his Sunday 
newspapers. In other words, it will be argued that advertising 
is justifiable as an indirect subsidy of our daily and periodical 
press and the radio; that for this two billion dollars, which has 
to be charged ultimately to the consumer, we get a tremen- 
dous quantity of news, information, criticism, culture, pretty 
pictures, education and entertainment. We do, indeed, and 
as taxpayers we value this contribution to our welfare so 
highly that our Post Office Department also heavily sub- 
sidizes our daily and periodical press. Also we pay the Federal 
Radio Commission's annual million-dollar budget, consumed 
chiefly in adjusting commercial dog-fights over wave lengths. 

But the actual quality and usefulness of what we get is 
another matter. In exchange for these official and unof- 
ficial subsidies we get a daily and periodical press which has 
practically ceased to function as a creative instrument of 
democratic government: which does, however, function ef- 
fectively as an instrument of obscuration, suppression and 
cultural stultification, used by business in behalf of business; 
which levels all cultural values to the common denominator 
of emulative acquisition and social snobbism, which draws its 
daily and weekly millions to feast on the still-born work of 
hamstrung reporters, escape- formula fictioneers, and slick- 

empty artists; which, having stupefied its readers with this 
sour-sweet stew of nothingness, can be counted on to be 
faithful to them in all issues which don't particularly matter 
and to betray them systematically and thoroughly whenever 
their interests run counter to the vested interests of business. 

In this indictment it is not denied that we have in 
America many honest newspapers and honest magazines, 
honest editors, honest reporters and honest advertising men. 
They are honest and blameless within the limits of the pattern 
prescribed for them by the economic determinants of the in- 
stitutions which they serve. Some of them even struggle at 
great peril and sacrifice to break through and transcend these 
limits. It is inevitable that they should do so, since not only 
their readers but themselves are violated by the compulsions 
of the system in which both are caught. 

But the system itself is substantially as described. The 
American apparatus of advertising is something unique in 
history and unique in the modern world; unique, fantastic 
and fragile. One needs but little knowledge of history, or of 
the movement of contemporary economic and social forces, 
to know that it can't last. It is like a grotesque, smirking 
gargoyle set at the very top of America's sky-scraping ad- 
venture in acquisition ad infinitum. The tower is tottering, 
but it probably will be some time before it falls. And so long 
as the tower stands the gargoyle will remain there to mock us. 

The gargoyle's mouth is a loud speaker, powered by the 
vested interest of a two-billion-dollar industry, and back of 
that the vested interests of business as a whole, of industry, 
of finance. It is never silent, it drowns out all other voices, 
and it suffers no rebuke, for is it not the Voice of America? 
That is its claim and to a degree it is a just claim. For at least 
two generations of Americans the generations that grew up 
during the war and after have listened to that voice as to 
an oracle. It has taught them how to live, what things to be 
afraid of, what to be proud of, how to be beautiful, how to 


be loved, how to be envied, how to be successful. In the most 
tactful manner, and without offending either the law or the 
moralities, it has discussed the most intimate facts of life. It 
has counselled with equal gravity the virtue of thrift and the 
virtue of spending. It has uttered the most beautiful senti- 
ments concerning the American Home, the Glory of Mother- 
hood, the little rosebud fingers that clutch at our heartstrings, 
the many things that must be done, and the many, many 
things that must be bought, so that the little ones may have 
their chance. It has spoken, too, of the mystery of death, and 
the conspicuous reverence to be duly bought and paid for 
when Father passes away. 

So that today, when one hears a good American speak, it 
is almost like listening to the Oracle herself. One hears the 
same rasping, over-amplified, whisky-contralto voice, ex- 
pressing the same ideas, declaring allegiance to the same values. 

So that when somebody like the writer rises to say that the 
Oracle is a cheat and a lie: that he himself was the oracle, for 
it was he who cooed and cajoled and bellowed into the micro- 
phone off stage; that he did it for money and that all the 
other priests of the Advertising Oracle were and are similarly 
motivated: that the Gargoyle-oracle never under any cir- 
cumstances tells the truth, the whole truth and nothing but 
the truth, for the truth is not in her: that she corrupts every- 
thing she touches art, letters, science, workmanship, love, 
honor, manhood. . . . 

Why, then, your American is not in the least abashed. He 
knows the answer. It was pretty smart, wasn't it? It certainly 
does pay to advertise! You know, I've always thought I'd 
like to write advertisements! How does one get into the Ad- 
vertising Business? 




The Endless Chain of Salesmanship 

THE apparatus of advertising, conceived of as the total ap- 
paratus of daily and periodical publishing, the radio, and, in 
somewhat different quality and degree, the movie and formal 
education, is ramified interlocking and collusive, but not 
unified. This distinction must be kept carefully in mind. 
Most of the residual and fortuitous mercies and benefits that 
the public at large derives from the system are traceable to 
the fact that the apparatus of advertising is not unified; it 
exhibits all the typical conflicts of competitive business under 
capitalism plus certain strains and stresses peculiar to itself. 

With the system operating at the theoretical maximum of 
its efficiency, the sucker, that is to say the consumer, would 
never get a break. In practice, of course, he gets a good many 
breaks: a percentage of excellent and reasonably priced prod- 
ucts, a somewhat higher percentage of unbiased news, a still 
higher percentage of good entertainment both on the air and 
in the daily and periodical press. He even gets a modicum of 
genuine and salutary education more, or less, depending on 
his ability to separate the wheat from the chaff. 

No system is perfect and the apparatus of advertising suf- 
fers not merely from human frailty and fallibility but from 
the lag, leak, and friction inherent in its design. 

The apparatus of advertising is designed to sell products 
for the advertiser, and to condition the reflexes of the indi- 
vidual and group mind favorably with respect to the interests 


of the advertiser. The desired end result of the operation of 
the apparatus is a maximum of profitable sales in the mass or 
class market at which the advertising effort is directed. 

But the apparatus itself is made up of a series of selling 
operations as between the constituent parts of the system. 
Each of these parts is manned by rugged individuals, all bar- 
gaining sharply, not merely for their respective organizations 
but for themselves. In attempting to trace this endless chain 
of selling one wonders where to begin. Perhaps the advertising 
agency is as good a starting point as any. 


The advertising agent was originally a space broker dealing 
in the white space that newspapers and periodicals had for 
sale. He bought space wholesale from the publishers as cheaply 
as possible and retailed it for as much as he could get from 
advertisers. In the early days he frequently made a handsome 
profit so handsome that the more powerful publishers at- 
tempted to stabilize the system by appointing recognized 
agents and granting them a commission on such space as they 
sold to advertisers. The amount of the commission varied. 
For the compensation they delivered a service consisting of 
selling, credit and collection. The advertiser planned and 
wrote his own advertisements and had them set up and 
plated; he did his own research, merchandising, and so forth. 

But more and more the agent tended to take over these 
functions. He dealt with many advertisers and hence was in 
an excellent position to become a clearing house of experience. 
From a seller of white space he became a producer of adver- 
tising. In a comparatively short period of years the larger 
national advertisers were placing their advertising through 
agents whose functions were the following: planning and 
preparing the advertisement in consultation with the sales or 
advertising manager of the advertiser; attending to all de- 


tails of art purchase, mechanical production, etc.; selection 
of publication media in which the advertising campaign 
would appear; checking the insertions in these media. "Re- 
search," "Merchandizing," etc., were later functions of the 
agency, which in the larger agencies today are handled by 
well-established departments. 

The advertising agency is thus in the somewhat ambiguous 
position of being responsible to the advertiser whom he is 
serving but being paid by the advertising, publication or 
other advertising medium, his commission being based on the 
volume of the advertiser's expenditure. Objection to this 
commission method of agency compensation has been chronic 
for years. There are today a few relatively small agencies 
that operate on a service fee basis. But the commission method 
of compensation has persisted and is a factor in the endless 
chain of selling that links the whole advertising apparatus. 

Before the agent is entitled to receive commissions from 
the various advertising media magazines, newspapers, radio 
broadcasters, carcard and outdoor advertising companies 
he must first be "recognized." To secure recognition he there- 
fore presents to each of these media groups, which maintain 
appropriate trade committees for this purpose, evidence that 
he is financially responsible and controls the placing of a cer- 
tain minimum of advertising business. The first selling job 
is therefore that of the agent in "selling" his competence and 
responsibility to the organized media. 

When recognition is once granted, however, the agent 
steps into the buyer's position in respect to the media. His 
duty is then to his clients, the advertisers. In return for the 
commission paid by the media which has been more or less 
stabilized at 1 5 per cent less a two per cent discount for cash, 
which is passed on to the client, the agent is expected to pre- 
pare effective advertising, properly co-ordinated with manu- 
facturing and sales tactics, and place it in the media most 
effective for the purpose. 

Walk into the lobby of any large advertising agency and 
you will see about a dozen bright young men with brief cases 
waiting to see agency account executives or media department 
heads. They are space salesmen. The brief cases contain lav- 
ishly printed and illustrated promotion booklets which serve 
as reference texts for the salesmen. Many thousands of dol- 
lars go into the compilation of the data printed in one of 
these booklets. In it the publication's advertising manager 
proves that his "book" has so many subscribers and is bought 
at newsstands by so many people, as attested by the impartial 
Audit Bureau of Circulations. These readers are concentrated 
in such and such areas. They represent an average annual unit 
buying power of so much as evidenced by the property 
ownership of houses, automobiles, etc., etc. Their devotion to 
the publication is evidenced by such and such a turnover of 
subscribers and such and such a curve of circulation increase. 
Their confidence and response to advertising placed in the 
publication is evidenced by the success of advertisers A, B 
and C, whose campaigns last year proved that advertising in 
the Universal Weekly brings inquiries for only so much per 
inquiry; furthermore such and such a percentage of these 
inquiries were materialized into sales. The Universal Weekly 
also exercises an important influence upon dealers. The broad- 
side reproducing his campaign with which advertiser A cir- 
cularized the trade, resulted in stocking so and so many new 
dealers. The advertising department of the Universal Weekly 
also co-operates earnestly with advertisers; in fact staff rep- 
resentatives of the publication delivered so and so many of 
these broadsides, and are even responsible for the addition 
to the advertiser's list of so and so many new outlets. 

The editorial department of the Universal Weekly is also 
warmly co-operative. During the year 1932 the Universal 
Weekly applied the editorial pulmotor to its readers' flagging 
will-to-buy with measurable success. Note also the "construc- 
tive" quality of the articles printed in the Universal Weekly, 


that it gives also abundant quality in its fiction did it not 
pay Pete Muldoon the highest price ever paid a fictioneer for 
a serial? 

These promotion booklets constitute an important and 
greatly neglected source of economic and sociological data. 
Moreover, some of them are honest from start to finish. They 
had better be, on the whole. The agency's space buyer is 
hardboiled. He sees all the promotion booklets. Moreover, he 
has access to the advertising and sales records of a variety of 
clients. He can and does construct his own private pie charts; 
he can and occasionally does send his own crew of college- 
bred doorbell ringers into the field to find out what sort of 
people read what. On the basis of this calculus he says yes 
or no to the publisher's representative. . . . Well, not quite 
that. The publisher's representative has also seen the adver- 
tiser's advertising manager. And the publisher himself played 
golf last week with the Chairman of the Advertiser's Board. 
And the wife of the publisher's advertising manager gave a 
tea yesterday to the wife of the agency's vice-president who 
would like to get into the Colony Club. Also, the space sales- 
man and the agency's space buyer are both enthusiastic mem- 
bers of the Zeta chapter of Epsilon Sigma Rho remember 
that time we smuggled Prexy's prize pig into the choir loft? 

There are certain other considerations. Agencies select 
media subject to the approval of the client. But publishers' 
representatives are also in a position to recommend agencies 
to manufacturers who are about to make their debut as ad- 
vertisers or to regular advertisers who are thinking of chang- 
ing agencies. Also agency space buyers sometimes change 
jobs. They may go to other agencies or become space sales- 
men themselves. And space salesmen frequently graduate 
into agency account executives. 

What with one thing and another the agency space buyer 
is likely to say yes and no until all the data of his calculus 
is in hand. 


It is necessary to sketch this background of intrigue be- 
cause it is unquestionably a factor in the traffic of advertising 
where the stakes are large and a decision one way or another 
can readily be justified on entirely ethical grounds. It is a 
minor factor. Curiously enough there is probably less of it in 
the advertising business than in most other businesses; much 
less, for instance than in the movie industry, or in the field 
of investment banking. It is indeed puzzling that the ad-man,, 
whose stock-in-trade in his relations with the public, is pretty 
much bunk, should exhibit, in the internal traffic of the busi- 
ness, a relatively high standard of personal integrity. Yet the 
writer is convinced that this is so, and in later chapters will 
offer tentative explanations why this should be so. 

The agency-publication-advertiser relation is of course 
only one loop of the endless chain of selling. To complete the 
circuit in detail would scarcely be useful at this point. The 
major sequences may be summarized briefly as follows: 


The raw material of advertising consists of ink, paper, 
paint, photographic materials and talk. The techniques in- 
volved are too numerous to list, especially since new tech- 
niques are constantly emerging. In the lobby of the agency 
swapping cigarettes and gossip with the space salesmen are 
regularly to be seen the salesmen representing advertising's 
services of supply. They are all there in person or represented 
by their salesmen. The printer, the lithographer, the photog- 
rapher, the carcard and outdoor advertising companies, the 
direct-by-mail house, which is a printing house with much of 
the production personnel and equipment -of the agency; the 
advertising "novelty" house, a "public relations" expert, a 
couple of broadcasting companies and three specimens of 
radio talent. Also the de luxe young woman who serves as go- 
between in the testimonial racket; also half a dozen people 


of both sexes who are looking for jobs. They have heard that 
the agency has just captured the Primrose Cheese account. 

All told it makes quite a mob. The reception clerk is either 
gray-haired and dignified, or young, pretty and amiable. She 
is busy continuously on the telephone, glibly translating the 
account executive's "Nothing doing" into "Mr. Blotz is so 
sorry. Couldn't you come tomorrow at about this time?" 
Eventually most of these salesmen are seen by somebody. The 
agency is in the selling business too and <an't afford to up- 
stage anybody. While they are waiting they improve their 
time by selling each other. The printer sells the direct-by-mail 
house executive; the engraver sells the printer; the lithog- 
rapher sells the outdoor advertising representative; the radio 
talent sells the broadcaster. Only the testimonial racketeer 
remains uninterested. Deciding that there isn't a profitable 
date in a carload of these people, she gives it up and goes 


It must be understood that an advertising agency is a 
loose aggregation of rugged individuals each of whom is very 
busy carving out his or her professional career. This occa- 
sions more or less continuous conflict and confusion. The 
technique of combat is salesmanship. The movement is the 
circular movement of the dance, with alternating tempos of 
dreamy waltz and frantic fox-trot. There is much cutting-in 
and swapping of partners. Everybody is busy selling every- 
body else; this entails much weaving from desk to desk; 
many prolonged luncheon conferences; many convivial mid- 
night parties in Bronxville, Great Neck and Montclair. The 
mulberry bush around which this dance revolves is known 
in the trade jargon as the Billing, that is to say, the total 
volume of advertising on which the agency gets commissions. 
Everybody knows the amount of the commission and every- 


body knows or can guess approximately the amount of the 
Billing. Hence everybody is constantly doing mental cal- 
culations in which the opposing factors are "How much do I 
do?" and "How much am I paid?" The answer never comes 
out right for anybody. The copy-writer notes that he writes 
all the copy on three accounts the total annual billing on 
which averages say a million dollars. Fifteen per cent of a 
million dollars is $150,000. The copy-writer's salary is $5,000 
and this year no bonus was paid at Christmas time. The dis- 
crepancy is obvious. The copy-writer considers that all the 
other processes of the agency, such as art production for which 
a separate added commission is charged, media selection, 
client contact, new business getting, forwarding, billing and 
other routine tasks, are just as much overhead and that there 
is too damned much of it; also too damned much profit 
going into the salaries and dividends received by the heads of 
the agency. All the other members of the "creative" staff 
entertain similar views differing only in the focus of the 
particular grievance; whereas the lowly clerical and mechan- 
ical workers are convinced that the agency wouldn't get 
paid unless the advertisements got into the newspapers and 
magazines. They too have their grievances. The way out for 
all these people is salesmanship. Hence everybody sells every- 
body else; the copy writer and the art director sell the ac- 
count executives on the relative importance of copy versus 
art or art versus copy; the research director sends memoranda 
up to the top pointing out that it is impossible to sell shoes 
without an adequate economic and anatomical study of feet; 
the new-business-getter inquires with some acerbity, who 
brought this account into the house? 

Observing this disorder in the ranks, the heads of the 
agency are puzzled and heartsick. They work hard yes, 
many of them do work preposterously hard. Few of them 
make large fortunes out of the agency business directly. They 
give more or less secure employment to hundreds of people. 

And in return they get an amount of grouching, chiseling 
and intrigue that is positively appalling. 

The dance around the mulberry bush grows dreamier and 
dreamier, or wilder and wilder. Since the generated energy is 
centrifugal in nature, it happens at more or less regular in- 
tervals that one of the dancers furtively leaves the floor and 
runs across the street with a sprig of the mulberry bush in 
his teeth. Panic ensues. A chosen few of the apostate's inti- 
mates follow their leader across the street. If the mulberry 
sprig roots and flowers, a new agency is established, the music 
strikes up, and a new dance begins around the new mulberry 

Meanwhile, in the parent agency a period of stricter dis- 
cipline is inaugurated. Disaffected staff members are scared 
or flattered back into line. New management devices are in- 
troduced, which have as their objective an improved agency 
morale. They are selling devices primarily. The staff is sold 
on the integrity and fairness of the directing heads; they are 
sold on the honor and dignity of the advertising profession; 
they are assured that the way to the top is always open; that 
copy writers, junior executives, etc., who work hard and 
keep their eyes off the clock will be given higher responsibili- 
ties, with commensurate increases in salary. The virtues of 
the ad-man are industry, alertness and loyalty, and the greatest 
of these is loyalty. On the anniversary of his employment 
with the agency each employee finds on his desk a white 
rose. All are urged to take a greater interest in the business. 
Monday morning staff conferences are instituted. A frequent 
subject of discussion at such conferences is the obligation, 
falling on every ad-man, to believe in what he is selling. How 
can he sell the public until he has first sold himself? This 
would seem a somewhat harsh requirement, but the reader 
is asked to believe that a percentage of ad-men fulfill it quite 
literally. By a process of self -hypnosis they become deliriously 


enthusiastic about whatever they are obliged to sell at the 

Their homes are museums of advertised toothpastes, soaps, 
antiseptics and gadgets. From themselves, their wives and 
their children, they exact the last full measure of devotion. 
They are alternately constipated with new condiments and 
purged with new laxatives, while their lives are forever being 
complicated with new gadgets. 

Since accounts change hands frequently, a certain open- 
mindedness of judgment, and a certain emotional flexibility 
are parts of the necessary equipment of the ad-man. He must 
be prepared at a moment's notice to forswear toothpaste A 
and announce undying devotion to toothpaste B; to rip out 
a whole line of bathroom equipment and install a new line; 
to turn in his McKinley Six for a Hoover Eight, whether he 
can afford it or not. His ability to do all these things without 
any outward evidence of insincerity is little short of mirac- 

The ad -man is indeed a kind of Candide. His world is the 
best of all possible worlds, as the Russians say, every change 
is good, even for the worse. For instance, he may work for a 
small agency and passionately proclaim the efficiency of the 
smaller service organization as against that of the half-dozen 
mammoths of the business. But let his agency be merged with 
one of these mammoths and he will make speech at the en- 
suing convention of the joined staffs, in which he declares 
with tears in his eyes that this marriage was made in heaven. 
If, as sometimes happens, the merger was in fact a shotgun 
marriage consummated more or less at the behest of the 
sheriff, his fervor will be heightened only by this circum- 
stance, which he will stoutly deny to all and sundry. He is 
not consciously lying. He literally believes what he is saying. 
His is indeed the faith that passes understanding. 

In puzzling over such phenomena, it has occurred to the 
writer that there is something feminine about the makeup of 


your died-in-the-wool ad-man. This is probably an acquired 
characteristic, a sort of industrial hazard, or occupational 
disease peculiar to the business. The point will become more 
clear when it is remembered that the advertising agency is 
the scene of frequent accouchements this is indeed the busi- 
ness-as-usual of the agency. Your ad-man is continuously 
either enceinte with big ideas, or nursing their infant help- 
lessness. In this delicate condition he can scarcely be held 
intellectually or morally responsible for his opinions and 
acts. Behind him is the whole pressure of the capitalist or- 
ganism, which must sell or perish. 

Hence the ad-man's morning sickness, his tell-tale fits of 
dizziness after lunch, his periods of lachrymose sentimentality, 
his sleepless vigils after hours, his indifference to considerations 
of elementary logic the charming hysteria, in general, of 
his high-strung temperament. Hence his trepidation as he 
approaches the ultimate ordeal to be described in the next 
chapter the Presentation to the Client. 




An Advertising Accouchement 


FROM his window close to the top of one of the minor sky- 
scrapers of the Grand Central district, Eddie Butts, for two 
months now, has been watching the spectral towers of Radio 
City climb into the western sky. 

Eddie Butts sighs. It is after hours, and Eddie is tired. The 
sigh flies out the window, wreathes itself jocosely around the 
topmost tower, and returns as an ironic, incomprehensible 
whisper in Eddie's ear. 

Eddie Butts shakes his head like a blind horse troubled by 
flies. He must get down to business. He must get out his 
work-sheet for the next day. Eddie turns to the dictaphone. 

"Follow Schmalz on XYZ schedule stop Have Chapin phone 
Universal on LHJ extension stop Call up Hank Prentice 
stop Ask him how the hell he is stop Follow Chris on revises 
BDB layouts stop Call Gene at the Club [Gene is getting 
drunk with a client tonight strictly in line of duty, and it is 
standard practice to wake him up at noon of the next day] 
Revise plan for Primrose Cheese stop Lather Lulu a little 
stop [Lulu is the radio prima donna who got miffed at the 
last Cheery Oats broadcast] Organize Vita-pep research stop 
Follow Mac on Spermentine publicity stop Tell him to damn 
well watch his step stop Follow stop Follow stop err Stop." 

A telephone is ringing persistently at the other end of the 


floor. Probably nothing important some girl friend calling 
one of the boys in the checking room. But you can never tell. 
Eddie's sense of duty is strong. He decides not to take a 

"Hello . . . Hello . . . Who? Oh, hello, Bob. This is 
Eddie. What's the matter? Are you in trouble? . . . Oh, so 
I'm in trouble am I? . . . Go on, you're drunk . . . What's 
that? Sure, that's right. We're all ready to shoot. Old Him- 
melschlussel himself will be on here from Racine, day after 
tomorrow, and we give him the works, see? What? Oh, 
swell. Swell slant. Swell art. Thought I told you about it. 
Cheese and beer, cheese and cigarettes. Cheese for dessert. 
The continental idea, you know. Put cheese on the map. 
Himmelschlussel? No, I've never met him. What? Who says 
so? Who's Oscar? Yes? Well, is he sure about that? What? 
Say, how soon can you get over here? Sure, bring Oscar. 
Step on it. I'll wait for you." 

Eddie Butts' shoulders sag slightly as he stumbles along 
the half-lit corridor back to his office. This might be just a 
space salesman's wise crack. On the other hand, it might be 
a real one another fire alarm. In which case 

Eddie went to the bookcase and took down the three 
elaborately bound volumes that represented the agency's sub- 
mission on the Primrose Cheese account. 

Vol. I. Section i. Market analysis, plan, and consumer, 
copy, (the layouts are already tacked up on the wall in the 
conference room) Section 2. Report of the domestic science 
Bureau. Section 3. Merchandizing plan, trade copy, dealer 

Vol. II. Report of the Research department. 

Volume III. Media analysis and estimates. (This is an over- 
size volume composed of charts and hand-lettered captions) 

For the layman, a word of explanation is perhaps required 
at this point. The submission as listed above involves an in- 
vestment by the agency of approximately $10,000. It is a 

gambling investment, even though in this instance the client 
has signed a contract appointing the XYZ company as his 
advertising agent, and certain frail safeguards to the agent 
are embodied in this contract. It is a gambling investment 
because all this work has been done subject to the client's 
approval, and most of it be paid for only when and if the 
client o.k's the campaign and the advertising begins to appear. 

In some cases such presentations are sheerly speculative, 
since they are made before the agent is appointed, as a means 
of selling the client and securing the account. Such specula- 
tive selling by the agency is frowned upon by the organized 
profession and is prohibited in the NRA agency code of fair 
competition. There are, of course, many ways of evading this 
prohibition, and since the agency field is highly competitive, 
such evasions will probably continue, much as in the past. 

It may be asked: why this extraordinary and costly elab- 
orateness of selling? The explanation resides chiefly in the 
commission method of compensation. To the client that 15% 
commission looks like a lot of money is a lot of money when 
applied to a total annual expenditure by the client of, say, 
$12,000,000 for advertising a single brand of cigarette. 

The economic logic of the situation induces two opposing 
points of view. From the agency's point of view, the client 
is the squirming, recalcitrant fly in the otherwise pure oint- 
ment of that 15% commission. All clients are unreasonable 
in theory and frequently so in fact. In justice to the agency 
it should be said that the majority of reputable agencies strive 
earnestly to earn their commissions. They work hard and 
even in the best of all possible worlds they make big money 
only by a lucky break, to be discounted by a succession of 
bad breaks next year. But the client either doesn't know this 
or doesn't care. On the principle of caveat emptor, the client 
has to be shown. 

To put it crudely, the agent, from the advertiser's point 
of view, is a bunk-shooter, a hi-jacker, with whom he is 


obliged to deal merely because he has to pay that 15% com- 
mission anyway. In its relations to clients, the agency may be 
neither a bunk-shooter nor a hi- j acker, but it is guilty as 
charged until it proves itself innocent. When possible the 
client forces the agency to split the commission; or the ad- 
vertiser may finance his own "house agency." There are argu- 
ments against both these devices. When they seem plausible, 
recourse is had to other forms of chiseling. The agency is 
perhaps asked to pay the salary of the client's advertising or 
sales manager. In any event the client insists on "service" and 
lots of it. He demands free research and merchandizing serv- 
ice, for which the agency would like to charge, and some- 
times does charge an additional fee. He insists on dealing with 
the principals of the agency, whether his account is large or 
small, and irrespective of the competence of the staff workers 
assigned to the account. The advertising manager expects the 
agency's art department to design his Christmas cards and 
forget to bill him. The advertisers' statistician expects the 
agency's copy department to find a publisher for the verse 
of the Wunkerkind spawned by his sister-in-law. When the 
advertiser's advertising manager, or sales manager, or vice 
president of the Company, their wives, cousins, etc., come to 
New York, they are duly entertained in more or less Baby- 
lonian fashion, depending upon their estimated importance, 
and their previously ascertained habits and tastes. The bill for 
this entertainment is duly applied to the agency's overhead 
on that particular account. 

But the necessitated elements of conspicuous waste are most 
apparent in the Presentation to the Client which our friend 
Eddie Butts, in the nocturnal solitude of his skyscraper eyrie, 
is now somewhat morosely examining. 

The service embodied in that presentation must look as if 
it were worth at least twice what the client is asked to pay 
for it, as determined by 15% of the net recommended ex- 
penditure for publication, radio, car-card, poster, direct, and 

other miscellaneous advertising. In this respect it is like the 
presentation of any advertised product to the consumer. The 
jar of cold cream worth 8 cents must look as if it were worth 
the $2.00 that is charged for it. The cheap car must look like 
an expensive car. The $1.98 dress must look like a million 
dollars. All this is what is known as "psychological" selling, 
and the principle operates in unbroken continuity through 
the whole fabric of the advertising business. 

Eddie Butts conducts his examination of the agency's 
highly styled and psychologized product from back to front. 
The client, when the presentation is made to him, will pro- 
ceed similarly, since the nub of the argument lies in the rec- 
ommended net expenditure, a figure which appears incon- 
spicuously at the end of Volume III. 

In this case, the figure is only moderate about $500,000 
and as Eddie Butts, reading from right to left, weaves 
through the maze of charts, tables, graphs, copy and mer- 
chandizing these, etc., etc., he reflects ruefully that this pre- 
sentation not only looks like a million dollars, but as a mat- 
ter of fact, it has already cost the agency a good deal more 
than it should have cost. 

There has been a lot of grief on this account. In the be- 
ginning it dropped into the house more or less out of the 
blue. Old Hanson came back from a trip tkrough the Middle 
West with the contract in his pocket. Everybody was con- 
siderably surprised, since Hanson's function in the agency 
had come to be regarded as almost wholly ornamental. A 
rather handsome, gray-haired, middle-aged person, his ap- 
pearance and manner suggested extreme probity, conserva- 
tism, and a certain wise and sophisticated benignity. Copy 
writers, art directors and other "creative" workers occasion- 
ally testified to each other that Hanson was stupid, and pro- 
duced more or less convincing evidence to this effect. But the 
heads of the agency, being a shade more sophisticated than 
either Hanson or his critics, were aware that certain varieties 


of handsomely packaged stupidity are not without their uses 
in the advertising business. So that Hanson's position was 

But he certainly had pulled a boner on this account. Eddie 
recalled the preliminary conference called to consider the 
problem of Primrose Cheese and to devise appropriate solu- 

The stenographer's record listed as among those present 
Hanson, Butts, (Eddie was the group director having super-, 
visory responsibility for the account) McNear, the art direc- 
tor and Appleton, his young assistant; Blashfield, the bril- 
liant copy-art-plan man, the outstanding advertising genius 
of the Kidd, Kirby & Dougherty Agency; Shean, the copy 
man, whose strictly disinterested facility made him a useful 
understudy for Blashfield and others; Mrs. Betts, the head of 
the Domestic Science Bureau, a rather grandiose, gray-haired 
personality, full of sex antagonism and quite without a sense 
of humor; Harmsworth and Billings, the last-named being 
merely a couple of obscure copy hacks. 

The day previous to the conference, all these people had 
received, along with notice of their mobilization, a sample 
of Primrose Cheese, with strict injunction to eat it that eve- 
ning. It was a large sample, and Eddie recalled that some of 
the conferees looked a little the worse for wear that morning. 

In opening the meeting, Eddie made the usual preliminary 
pep talk, duly deposited the problem on the long mahogany 
table, and called for solutions. 

Mr. Hanson: Since I am more or less responsible for bring- 
ing this account into the house, perhaps I should tell you 
some of the circumstances. Mr. Outerbridge, the advertising 
manager of the Primrose Cheese Company, is a college class- 
mate of mine, and it is through him that the account was 
secured. The Primrose Cheese Company is one of the four 
largest manufacturers of cheese in America. Yet hitherto it 
has never advertised its products, except in the grocery trade 


press. The reputation of Primrose Cheese with the trade is 
unexcelled. It is sold from Coast to Coast and from Maine 
to Florida. Recently sales have been declining. The competi- 
tion of advertised packaged brands has been steadily eating 
into their business. They've got to advertise. Mr. Outerbridge 
is convinced of this. His principal, Mr. Mr. Himmelschlussel, 
President of the Primrose Cheese Company, whom I did not 
have the privilege of meeting, is I understand still reluctant. 
But he realizes that something has to be done, and he has 
consented to the appointment of this agency subject to his 
approval of our recommendations. We've got a tough selling 
job on all fronts, gentlemen. We've got the whole job to do: 
packaging, merchandizing, branding, pricing, merchandiz- 
ing the whole works. It's an old conservative firm and their 
credit is Ai. Mrs. Betts is experimenting with Primrose 
Cheese and the Research department has already started its 
work. What we want today, I take it, is some first class ad- 
vertising ideas. I have an idea myself, but I shan't spring it 
until I've heard from some of the rest of you. 

Mr. Sbean: What kind of cheese is it? 

Mr. Hanson: Just good, one hundred per cent American 
cheese. You ought to know. You ate some of it, didn't you? 

Mr. Skean: Yeah, I did. Will you excuse me a moment. I'll 
be right back. 


Mr. Buffs: Charley, why don't you start the ball rolling 
yourself. You said you had an idea. 

Mr. Hanson: Very well. I have here, gentlemen, an option 
signed by the originator of Mickey and Minnie Mouse. By 
the terms of this option, it is understood that in consideration 
of a payment of one thousand dollars, which I took the lib- 
erty of making on my own responsibility, both Mickey and 
Minnie Mouse will positively refrain from writing testimo- 
nials for any other cheese for the next three months. My 
recommendation, gentlemen, is that our campaign be based 

on the testimonials of Mickey and Minnie Mouse. When any- 
body says cheese, what's the first thing you think of? Mice. 
Who's the world's most famous mouse? Mickey Mouse. Gen- 
tlemen, it's never been done before, and it's a natural. What 
do you think? 


Mrs. Betts: What do we need Mickey for? It's Minnie that 
runs the kitchen, isn't it? Excuse me for a moment, please. 
I'll be right back. 


Mr. Billings: (Who has recently escaped from the copy 
desk of a tabloid) Ha! 

Mr. Butts: Billings, will you stop that obscene cackle? 

The stenographer's record became defective at this point. 
Eddie's memory supplied the details. Harmsworth, Princeton, 
1928, who had recently graduated from the apprentice course 
of the agency, had also elected that moment to be brought 
to bed with a big idea of some sort. Harmsworth was typical 
of the class of Unhappy Rich Boys for whom advertising 
agencies have been required increasingly to serve as dumping 
grounds. He was the nephew of the chairman of the board 
of Planetary Founders Corporation. It was rumored that on 
attaining his majority, he had inherited three million dollars 
from his mother. He didn't have to work. He played polo 
rather well, but not well enough to rate any great distinction 
in his set. And being a serious minded youth with no vices 
and no talents, it was necessary for him to have some occupa- 
tion, some role in life, to which he could refer in his conver- 
sations with Junior League debutantes. Advertising, a roman- 
tic, more or less literary profession, filled the bill admirably. 

Harmsworth got in at nine o'clock every morning and fre- 
quently stayed until six. With the other apprentices, he did 
his bit on research, which meant days of hot and heavy foot- 
work in the wilds of Queens and the Oranges, ringing door- 

bells, and asking impertinent questions of stolidly uncoop- 
erative housewives. 

This was Harmsworth's first agency conference and his 
first Big Idea. Its delivery was complicated by the fact that 
in moments of great excitement, Harmsworth stuttered pain- 

Mr. Harmsworth: C-c-can't we t-t-tie this c-campaign up 
to the n-n-to the n-n-news? How about hooking it up with 
relativity? There's so much f-f- so much food value in ch-ch- 
cheese. Relatively, you know. More f-f food value than meat. 
More than eggs. Maybe we could g-g-g-g-maybe we could 
get Einstein! 

Mr. Billings (who is frantically waving two fingers) : Ex- 
cuse me, please. 

Mr. Butt si All right, Billings. 

Mr. Harmsworth: Of course, it may be a b-b- a bum hunch. 
I just thought 


By this time the conference was pretty well mired. Some- 
thing had to be done, and as usual, Blashfield did it. Blash- 
field's salary was thirty thousand dollars a year, plus his par- 
ticipation as a stockholder in the agency's profits. Blashfield 
didn't think that was enough. Every day, in every possible 
way, he proved it wasn't enough. Cruelly, sadistically, he ex- 
posed the incompetence, the muddleheadedness of his asso- 
ciates. He had a string of copy writers and layout men work- 
ing under him, all of whom hated him cordially. Their work 
was rarely used, except as a foil to exhibit the superior bril- 
liance of the agency's star copy-art-plan performer. At the 
last moment, in a day or two days, he would knock out the 
copy, rough layouts, plan and marketing strategy for a whole 
campaign. Artists, printers, engravers, the mechanical pro- 
duction staff of the agency, would be called upon to work 
nights and Sundays to complete the job. Blashfield's overtime 
bills were notorious. 


Then, with the plan memorandum snatched from the ste- 
nographer and flanked by two or three subordinates carrying 
unwieldy art and other exhibits, he would lope out of his 
office, pile into a taxi, and catch the train for Baltimore just 
as it was moving out of the station. The next morning he 
would lope back into the office, like a half-back completing 
an end run, and deposit the okayed plan, copy, layout and 
appropriation on Eddie Butts' desk. 

Blashfield had done it again: bis plan, bis copy, bis layouts, 
bis sale. Alone in Baltimore he had dazzled the client with 
the coruscations of his wit, the machine gun rattle of his 
logic, the facile improvisations of genius answering every ob- 
jection with pungent phrase or graphic line. O.K. Now Ed- 
die, it's up to you to follow it. 

From sad experience, Eddie had learned what to do on such 
occasions. The first thing to do was to take the train to Balti- 
more himself and pick up the pieces. Eddie knew what he 
would find. He would find a group of business men experienc- 
ing a perfectly dreadful morning after hangover, and indulg- 
ing in the usual orgy of remorse and mutual recrimination. 

Blashfield had been, shone and conquered. Blashfield was a 
brilliant fellow an advertising genius. Sure, and they hoped 
to God they never saw him again. Now about this damned 
contract they had signed. . . . 

Eddie was no genius. As an advertising man he was only 
mediocre. But as a fixer he was an expert. Even so, he would 
be lucky if, after two weeks of hard work, he emerged with 
a modified appropriation and a revised campaign, in which 
some remnants of Blashfield's initial performance might or 
might not be discernible. The campaign as carried out might 
be better or worse than Blashfield's original. Usually it was 
worse, for Blashfield's competence was genuine enough. But 
for better or worse it was duly billed and commissioned, 
which was the sort of thing the agency's treasurer was forever 
grousing about. So that Eddie Butts' salary was thirty-five 


thousand dollars a year, a fact that forever festered like a 
thorn in the Achilles' heel of the agency genius. 

Because of the repetition of such experience, the heads of 
the agency had increasingly restricted Blashfield's pyrotech- 
nics to the home grounds, where he could be carefully watched 
and protected against himself. No let-up of the Blashfield 
drive had resulted, but his hobbled ego required more and 
more bloody human sacrifices. His performance at the Prim- 
rose Cheese conference had been sanguinary in the extreme. 

Beginning suavely, he had made some incisive remarks about 
the standards of agency practice, the nature and purpose of 
agency conferences. Abruptly he swung into a disquisition 
on the natural history and personal habits of mice; mice that 
live in old houses but are never housebroken; old mice, young 
mice; the love life of the mouse; mother mice and their pink 
and squirming progeny; mice and elephants, and the tactless- 
ness of both as dinner guests; mice that creep out from under 
sinks and leer up at horrified housewives; (at this point Mrs. 
Betts lifted her skirts and barely suppressed a shriek.) Mice 
and cheese. The kind of cheese mice eat, and the obscene 
sounds they, make while eating; the dumbness of mice and the 
dumbness of men. 

By this time old Hanson was purple with rage. But be- 
fore he could interrupt Blashfield, whom the stenographer 
had given up trying to follow, was well launched upon a 
burlesque of relativity, which rapidly took form as a con- 
vention of mouse domestic science experts, presided over by 
Minnie Mouse, and discussing the relative dietetic merits of 
meat, cheese, caviar, etc. Even Harmsworth laughed, partly 
to cover his confusion. 

Then abruptly the wizard's mood changed. Come on fel- 
lows. Let's be serious. What's the best way to sell cheese? 
Primrose Cheese? 

With rapid logic he outlined the campaign that could, 
should and must be conducted. The consumption of cheese in 


America was negligible compared to its consumption in 
France, England, Germany, Switzerland throughout the 
world. The dietetic habits of America must be transformed. 
An institutional campaign, then? No, a selling campaign, 
hard-boiled selling copy that would boost the sales of Prim- 
rose Cheese from week to week and from month to month. 
But the copy would be educational too. It would show the 
things that Americans do eat and drink, and dovetail cheese 
into the menu; Primrose Cheese for the cocktail party. Cheese 
for dessert the continental idea. That's what all the best 
people are doing and the rest of America must be shamed into 
imitating the Best People. Style. Style in the copy. Style in 
the art. Jean Mazarin for the art he'll be in New York in 
two weeks and he'll love it. 

Now, as to the trademark that some of you have been 
worrying about. What is it? A primrose, crossed with a key. 
It looks a little like a swastika, and a little like a Jewish 
candlestick. But look at it now. 

Blashfield executed a few swift strokes on his sketching 

There's your solution. It's still a little like a swastika, and all 
the patriotic Germans will notice it. It's also a little like a Jew- 
ish candlestick, and all the Jews will notice that. But a second 
look will convince anybody that it's neither one nor the other 
and that's just fine for everybody. 

As usual, Blashfield had swept all before him. The confer- 
ence broke up after an assignment of preliminary tasks, all 
to be executed under his supervision. The other Big Ideas, of 
course, were never removed from the appropriate receptacle 
into which Blashfield, with surgical dispatch, had consigned 

Harmsworth had played polo all the next week, and when 
he returned was assigned to a bank account. Hanson had 
groused for a while. His first idea in twenty years. And on 
investigation it proved not to be his idea after all. It was his 


secretary's idea, and for several weeks thereafter the gossip of 
the women's room was enlivened by the lady's complaints 
about how hard it was for a girl to get ahead in a big 

The campaign had consumed the time of eight or ten people 
for three months. In the end, Blashfield had scrapped their 
efforts and done the whole job himself in a last minute orgy 
of nerve-racking and expensive nightwork by all and sun- 

Eddie Butts winced as he read a memorandum from the 
Treasurer, protesting against so huge a bill for preliminary 
work on what was after all, not a major account. 

Well, there it was. And now if Bob Niemyer's steer was 
right, there would be hell to pay tomorrow. 

Eddie sighed, pushed his dictaphone into the corner, and 
helped himself to a shot of the house liquor. 


It was close to midnight, and Eddie Butts was in the middle 
of his third pipe before Bob Niemyer, the space salesman, and 
his German friend, stumbled through the darkened outer 
office and banged on his door. 

They were not drunk; merely very formal and very, very 

"Eddie, meet my friend Oscar Schleiermacher . . . Thanks, 
I guess I can stand another . . . Eddie, I'm afraid this is 
serious. Oscar knows what he's talking about, and he tells 
me that the big shot of the Primrose Cheese Company, Haken- 

"Himmelschlussel, August B. Himmelschussel," prompted 

"All right, Himmelschlussel. Well, as I was saying, I was 
telling Oscar about the swell presentation you'd worked up 
for Primrose Cheese naturally he wants a piece of it for his 


friends on the Vortschrift and when I got to the big idea, 
cheese and beer, cheese and cigarettes, cheese for the cocktail 
party, why I'm telling you Oscar almost passed out. Didn't 
you, Oscar?" 

Oscar made an eloquent gesture, hitched his chair forward, 
and drained a large glass of Scotch at a swallow. 

"You see, Eddie, this bird Himmelschlussel runs his own 
business. And how! He's got the o.k. on everything, see? 
What he says goes. And what he's going to say when he sees 
this campaign of yours won't even be funny." 

Mr. Schleiermacher nodded solemnly. 

"Er ist ein Herrenhuter. Sein Frau auch." 

"There," said Bob. "What did I tell you? He's a Herren- 
huter. What's a Herrenhuter? That's what you're going to 
find out when old Himmelschlussel gets an eyeful of that 
French night club art moderne Blashfield has cooked up for 
him. A Herrenhuter is a Fundamentalist, only worse. Let's 
be serious, Eddie. This Himmelschlussel is religious as all hell. 
He's a prohibitionist. Some of his coin goes to the Anti- 
Saloon League. What's more, Mrs. Himmelschlussel is one of 
the big shots in the Anti-Cigarette League. Nobody that 
works for Primrose Cheese can drink, smoke or forget to say 
his prayers. Isn't that right, Oscar?" 

"Ach, ja," said Oscar. "Er ist ein Herrenhuter. Sein Frau 

"His wife too," said Mr. Niemyer. "So when Oscar gives 
me the lowdown, I says to him: 'Eddie Butts has got to know 
about this. Eddie Butts is a friend of mine. Eddie and I are 
just like this'. Y' get me, Eddie? What makes it worse, this 
Himmelschlussel has a bad case of shell shock on advertising 
anyway. Ain't that right, Oscar? 

"Schrecklich," confirmed Oscar with an expansive gesture. 

"The story goes like this," continued Mr. Niemyer. "The 
local team of the League wins the pennant, see? And Him- 
melschlussel, he's a fan. Sure, baseball, that's his only vice. It 


seems he has a nephew playing shortstop on the team. That 
was eight years ago. Well, Old Himmelschlussel, he's the 
proud uncle, and he's got to do something about it, see? So 
what does he do? A big dinner for the team, see? Hell with 
expense. Sauerbraten, Kartofelkloss, leberknudel, hasenpfeffer, 
the whole works. No beer, no hard liquor. No cigarettes. 
Cheese. Boy, was there cheese! Big camembert in the middle of 
the table. Four feet high, weighs eighty pounds. Mottoes. 
Clock works. Imitation dugout. Birdie pops out of dugout. 
Cuckoo, cuckoo, cuckoo counts the score, see? Fine. Swell. 
Cost a lot of money. Only thing is, you know camembert. 
Eighty pounds of camembert. Ripe. Not so good. And those 
bush leaguers thirsty as camels, and no beer. So they get 
tough. Bean the birdie with pop bottles. Raise hell, see? That's 
bad enough, but next day the papers get funny. Himmel- 
(schlussel don't advertise, see? They keep it up for days. Him- 
melschlussel sore. Feelings hurt. You tell him, Oscar. "Were his 
feelings hurt? 

"Vom herz, Herr Butts. Vom herz. Ach, schrecklich." 
Oscar held his head and rocked in remembered sympathy. 

"So Himmelschlussel goes Herrenhuter again, worse than 
ever. Ten thousand simoleons that year to the Anti-Saloon 
League. And no more advertising stunts. That contract of 
yours how his sales manager got that out of the old man 
I just can't imagine, unless they're in trouble . . . What's 
that, Eddie. Don't want to rub it in. Just trying to do you a 
favor, see? You and me are pals. As I says to Oscar, I says 
what d'you say, Eddie?" 

"I said, Jesus H. Christ!" 

Eddie Butts wasn't listening. The fire alarm had rung. He 
was busy hunting numbers in the office telephone directory. 
Blashfield first. Damn Blashfield. Damn Hanson. Why hadn't 
they found out about this big shot? 

"Thanks, Bob," said Eddie, as he led his visitors to the 
elevator. "I'll let you know what happens. We got a day and 


a half. Maybe we can pull out. Good-night. Good-night, Mr. 
Schleiermacher, and thanks for the steer." 


After hours. The genius of advertising burns brightest after 
hours. When the noise of traffic is stilled, when the stream of 
office time-servers has flowed north into the Bronx, east and 
west under and over the rivers to be blotted up by the vast 
and formless spaces of Long Island and Jersey, light still 
lingers in the sky-scrapers of the mid-town district. 

Light and vision. Not money alone could buy the devotion 
of these weary-eyed night workers. It is something else, some- 
thing strange, incredible, miraculous perhaps a little mad. 
Is it for beauty that they burn themselves? For truth? For 
some great cause? No, it is none of these. It is like a perverse 
and blinding discharge of human electricity, like athletes bat- 
tling on the gridiron, or soldiers going over the top. 

In the Sargasso pool of quiet, high above the night-stricken 
city, what toils, what genuine heart-breaks, what farcical 
triumphs are consummated! 

From the moment that Eddie Butts turned in the fire 
alarm, the wheels of the Kidd, Kirby & Dougherty agency 
never stopped turning. Blashfield swooped in from West- 
chester, worked all night, and when his secretary came in the 
next morning, turned over a basketful of new copy for typ- 
ing. Eddie Butts' dictaphone whirred continuously. Tense 
voices barked into telephones. Printers, appalled by impossi- 
ble demands, wailed in anguish, achieved the impossible, and 
viciously pyramided the overtime charges. Layout men never 
left their drawing boards. Typists worked in relays. What 
had taken three months to do must be done again, but this 
time in thirty-six hours. 

It was done. Miraculously, it was done. Blashfield again. 
Blashfield the magnificent. Never was the man so dangerous 


as when, with his back against the wall, he was challenged by 
the impossible. A new Big Idea had been conceived and was 
well on the way to birth before he reached the office. Cheese 
and pie. New England stuff. Native American. Simple, homey. 
The New England grandma. The Southern mammy. To hell 
with Mazarin. Tell him, sorry, pay his bill or part of it, and 
charge it up to profit and loss. Forsythe is our man. Forsythe, 
the best buck-eye artist in America. He's busy? What of it? 
I said, get him. 

Forsythe performed. Blashfield performed. Clerks, messen- 
gers, typists everybody performed. 

By noon of the scheduled day for the presentation the 
miracle was accomplished. Or almost. Typewriters still rattled 
and savage-lipped production clerks still yapped into the tele- 
phone. One o'clock. No lunch for anybody. Two o'clock, and 
the final pages of the revised plan were bound into the port- 
folio. Three o'clock, and Himmelschlussel was expected. 
Three-fifteen, and no Himmelschlussel. Had something gone 

Only Colonel Kidd himself Calvin Kidd, author, editor 
and advertising man only Colonel Kidd remained calm. 
Back of his desk a framed motto proclaimed the solid premise 
on which his professional imperturbability was based: "There 
is somebody wiser than anybody. That somebody is every- 
body." It doesn't make sense, does it? Sure, that's just the 
point. Calvin Kidd was a mystic. He remained calm. But his 
associates, some of whom may have felt that their jobs were 
at stake, were less philosophic. At the telephone switchboard, 
the battery of skilled operators grew querulous striving to 
release the tide of out-going calls. Himmelschlussel. Himmel- 
schlussel! Where in hell is Himmelschlussel? 


It wasn't Dorothy's fault. Afterwards, since it didn't mat- 


ter anyway nothing mattered everybody acknowledged 
that you couldn't fairly pin it on Dorothy. 

Dorothy was the reception clerk, stationed in the lobby of 
the offices of Kidd, Kirby & Dougherty, with a pad of forms 
before her and a telephone receiver clasped over her lovely 
blonde hair. Dorothy knew her role, which was to make quick 
and accurate judgments and translate them into action. 

So that when the little old man with the umbrella 
stepped out of the elevator, she knew instantly what to do. 
The Primrose Cheese account was in a jam. A messenger was 
expected from the printer, bringing revised proofs. She had 
been warned to rush him through without delay to Mac in the 
mechanical production department. Dorothy spotted him in- 
stantly and beckoned him to the desk. The little old man ad- 
vanced somewhat diffidently. 

"I am Mr. Himmelschlussel. I 

"From Hazenfuss, yes. You're just in time. Go right 
through the side door and ask for Mac." 

Hazenfuss Brothers was the printing shop which at the 
stern behest of Blashfield had performed the current typo- 
graphical miracle. 

The little old man hesitated, but Dorothy, gracious but im- 
perative, motioned him to the side door. 

He vanished into a welter of comptometers, typewriters and 
proof presses. Dorothy had just an instant to reflect that she 
hadn't seen this particular messenger before. Also, wasn't it 
Hazenfuss that dolled up their messengers in naval uniforms, 
so that they all looked like musical comedy Commodores? 
This must be a new one. Come to think of it, he did wear 
a kind of uniform, too certainly was a funny old geezer. 
Maybe Hazenfuss had thought up a new advertising dodge. 

Meanwhile, Mr. Himmelschlussel was still trying to find 
Mac. Successively, he was shunted to the shipping room, to 
the store room clerk, to the purchasing clerk. Early in the 
ordeal, Mr. Himmelschlussel began to lose things. First he lost 


his umbrella. Then he lost his hat. Coincidentally with this 
second disaster, he completely lost his English. 

Alarmed by the clamor of what he took to be a minor riot 
in the mechanical production department, Pfeiffer, the office 
manager, emerged from his cubicle to see an elderly German- 
American gesticulating wildly in the middle of a circle of 
bewildered clerks. At intervals, his gray pompadour bristling, 
he would make a determined break for one of the innumerable 
doors, only to be hauled back by an expostulating clerk. 

Fortunately, Pfeiffer spoke German, for by this time Mr. 
Himmelschlussel could speak nothing else. . . . 

When the perspiring Pfeiffer finally persuaded the long 
awaited client to permit himself to be led into the presence of 
Colonel Kidd himself, a strange quiet had descended upon the 
agency. Mr. Himmelschlussel himself was quiet. He would 
speak neither English nor German. In response to Colonel 
Kidd's urbanities he merely grunted. Blashfield's irresistible 
wisecracks died unborn upon the desolate air. 

Silently, the procession wended to the conference room. In 
silence, Mr. Himmelschlussel listened to the reading of the 
plan. Upon the lavish exhibit of layouts, charts, proofs, etc., 
he turned a cold Prussian eye. Silence. 

At last, Mr. Himmelschlussel spoke. 

"Gentlemen, I haf joost come from de bank. Business is 
bad. We haf an offer from de Universal Foods Corporation 
to buy Primrose Cheese. It is a good offer. It is a very good 
offer. We have accepted that offer. 

"Dese" he gestured indifferently at the decorated walls of 
the conference room "dese iss very pooty pictures. De Uni- 
versal Foods people, maybe dey like to look at dem. I am 
sorry. I got to go now. My wife and I, we have friends in 
Brooklyn. Good day, gentlemen." 

In the far corner of the lobby an elderly woman was wait- 
ing. She had been waiting a long time. Dorothy thought she 
was perhaps a cleaning woman, or the mother of one of the 

shipping room boys. She said nothing and politely resisted 
Dorothy's gracious solicitudes. She had the corner to herself 
now, and Dorothy noticed that the space salesmen had put 
out their cigarettes. 

Eventually Mr. Himmelschlussel emerged, escorted by 
Colonel Kidd. She put her hand under his arm. They got into 
the elevator. They went to Brooklyn . . . 

Again that evening Eddie Butts worked late. He was tired, 
very tired. He had missed lunch entirely and it was after 
seven. Eddie was hungry. There, on the corner of the desk, 
was a left-over sample. Cheese. Primrose Cheese. 

Holding the package at arm's length, Eddie went to the 
open window. It took a long time falling. You couldn't hear 
it strike, but you could just barely see the yellow splotch it 
made on the pavement. 

Eddie lingered at the window. Thirty-two stories. Every 
now and then an advertising man jumps out of one of those 
high windows in the Grand Central district. Usually, it is 
the follow-up man, the old reliable. Usually, it is Eddie Butts. 



The Product of Advertising 

THE foregoing fictionized account of what happens in a 
large advertising agency will doubtless strike the lay reader 
as exaggerated. It will be denounced, more or less sincerely, 
by advertising men who have lived and toiled so long on the 
other side of the Advertising Looking Glass that the bar- 
barous farce-as-usual of advertising practice has become for 
them the only reality, the only "sanity" with which their 
minds are equipped to deal. 

The account is nevertheless true in every essential respect. 
The fiction is no stranger than many of the sober facts set 
forth elsewhere in this volume. 

We have now to consider what sort of product this adver- 
tising mill turns out. Again, the writer's inclusions may seem 
at first thought too sweeping. 

The advertisement itself is the least significant part of this 
product. The advertisement is an instrument, a tool, and the 
ad-man is a toolmaker. In using these tools the newspapers, 
magazines and radio broadcasters become something other 
than what they are commonly supposed to be; that is one 
result. By operating as they must operate, not as they are 
supposed to operate, these major instruments of social com- 
munication in turn manufacture products, and these products 
are the true end products of the advertising industry. 

The most significant product, or result, is the effective dis- 
solution of practically all local or regional, autonomous or 


semi-autonomous cultures based economically on functional 
processes of production and exchange and culturally on the 
ethical, moral and aesthetic content of such processes. The 
advertising-manufactured substitute for these organic cul- 
tures is a national, standardized, more or less automatic 
mechanism, galvanized chiefly by pecuniary motivations and 
applying emulative pressures to all classes of the population. 

In England, where the organic culture was older, richer 
and more resistant, publicists and educators are more keenly 
aware of the significance and potency of advertising, although 
there the business is still relatively embryonic, lacking either 
the scale or the intensity of the American phenomenon. 
Culture and Environment, by F. R. Leavis and Denys Thomp- 
son, best exhibits the 1933 English awareness of what is hap- 
pening, and this excellent book, representing the collaboration 
of a literary critic and a schoolmaster will be referred to again 
in later chapters. Among English creative writers, D. H. 
Lawrence seems to have grasped intuitively almost from the 
beginning, the nature and causes of the disintegrative process. 

In America, the most impressive testimony, both conscious 
and unconscious, to the progressive disintegration of the 
organic American culture is contained in the work of Sher- 
wood Anderson. Anderson grew up in a small Middle Western 
town during the period when the organic relation between 
agriculture and small town craft-industry was being shat- 
tered by the emergent forces of mass production, mass dis- 
tribution, and by the pseudoculture which the rapidly 
expanding apparatus of advertising manufacture as a mechani- 
cal substitute for what it destroyed. First as a manufacturer 
and later as an advertising man, Anderson participated un- 
willingly in this dual process of destruction and substitu- 

This experience, in the view of the writer, provides the 
essential clue to an understanding of Anderson's verse, short 
stories and novels. Much of the brilliant early work was writ- 


ten on the marginal time of an advertising copy writer em- 
ployed by a large Chicago agency. It has a single theme: the 
passionate rejection of the ad-man's pseudoculture and the 
nostalgic search for the organic culture that was already dead 
or dying. Anderson saw that the disintegration and steriliza- 
tion of the culture is reflected in the fragmentation and 
neutering of the individual. In novel after novel, story after 
story, we see him separating the quick from the dead and 
driving first backward, then forward, into some terrain more 
habitable for the human spirit. 

The reader will perhaps have been struck by the inhuman, 
hysterical, phantasmagoric quality of advertising agency prac- 
tice as described in the preceding chapter. This is inevitable. 
The prime mover of the advertising mill, the drive for profits, 
has no concern whatever for human life. Without organic 
life itself, the advertising mill is fueled by the organic cul- 
tural life which it disintegrates and consumes, but does not 
restore or replace. On cultural as well as on economic grounds 
it may be said that this organic social heritage is not in- 
exhaustible. Hence the advertising mill not only disintegrates 
and destroys all the humanity that comes within the sphere 
of its influence but is ultimately, like the modern capitalist 
economy of which it is a part, self-destructive. 

One sees this advertising mill as a coldly whirring turbine 
whose hum is so loud, so continuous, so omnipresent that we 
no longer hear it. Its force is centrifugal: all warm human 
life is expelled into the peripheral darkness where it continues 
to revolve although the machine can no longer use this 
nebula of burned-out dead and dying matter. 

At the heart of the machine we see dim figures moving: 
the sort of people whom the writer has tried to make real 
and credible in the preceding chapter. They rush here and 
there, fiddling with levers, filling the grease cups. . . . They 
are dead men. Against the blue light their hands are lifted 
in queer, stylized gestures. They speak, but what they say is 

without human meaning. It is the machine speaking through 
them and the sound comes to us like the sound of a phono- 
graph playing a cracked record, hugely and hoarsely ampli- 
fied. The lips of the robots move and we hear: . . . "Adver- 
tising is the new world force lustily breeding progress. It is 
the clarion note of business principle. It is the bugle call to 
prosperity. But great force as it is, advertising must seek all 
aid from literature and art in order that it may assume that 
dignity which is its rightful heritage. Advertising is ... 
oom-pah! oom-pah! Under the New Deal good advertising 
will become more essential than ever. It will be in a position 
to help the business executive to avoid those wasteful and 
excessive practices in selling which so often add needless costs 
to needed products. Good advertising is opposed to senseless 
price cutting and to unfair competition. Constructive sell- 
. . . oom-pah! oom-pah! No sales policy is permanently 
beneficial that has its roots in deception . . . oom-pah! oom- 
pah! It costs a lot of money when a community is to be 
attacked . . . oom-pah! oom-pah! Remember that while a 
shot-gun makes a lot more noise than a rifle it just messes 
things up. Aim the rifle well and you get a nice clean hole 
. . . oom-pah! oom-pah! The most popular dinner guest in 
Jerusalem . . . oom-pah! oom-pah! Every occupation has 
its special satisfactions. The architect and the builder see the 
product of their planning take shape in steel and stone. The 
surgeon snatches life from the jaws of death. The teacher and 
the minister give conviction and power to the things that 
are unseen. Our calling is not less significant. We build of 
imperishable materials, we who work with words. . . . All 
things perish, but the word remains . . . oom-pah! oom- 
pah! oom-pah! oom-pah! oom-pah! . . ." 

They are dead men. Their bones are bakelite. Their blood 
is water, their flesh is pallid yes, prick them and they do not 
bleed. Their eyes are veiled and sad or staring and a little 
mad. From them comes an acrid odor they do not notice it, 


it may be only the ozone discharge of the machine itself* 
When you ask them to tell you what they are doing, they do 
not know, or at least they cannot tell you. They are voice- 
less, indeed, self-less only the machine speaks through them 
.... Dead men tell no tales. 

Most are like that. But here and there among those dim 
wraiths is one who still keeps some semblance of life. An ar- 
tist, or perhaps one who would have been a scholar or a 
scientist but that he has suffered the spleen of an ill fate. Art 
and science are strong passions. Most of these exceptional ones 
become in time like the others. But they are the stronger 
spirits and now and then one of them escapes. They do not 
like to talk of what they have seen and done there at the 
heart of the machine. They like to pretend that it never 
happened; that it was a kind of nightmare, as indeed it was. 
But when tales are told it is they who tell them. From time 
to time Sherwood Anderson has told such tales. Recently he 
has begun to tell more of them. They are quite horrible tales. 
Artists find it difficult to use this material. The advertising 
business is harder to write about than the war. It would per- 
haps bring some of the dead back to life if more of such 
tales were told. 

But the machine tenders are not the only dead. Great waves 
of force shudder outward from the machine, and more and 
more this cold electric force substitutes for the life-force of 
the people whom the waves surround and penetrate. They too 
seem to lose the color and movement of natural human life. 
They twitch with little fears and itch with little greeds. 
They become nervous, jittery, mechanical. They can no longer 
weep with spontaneous tears or rock with spontaneous laugh- 
ter. They too become in a sense self -less so that one cannot 
expect them to be true to themselves or true to others. The 
waves which increasingly substitute for their flagging or- 
ganic will-to-live the waves have indeed not heard of this 
truth. For the prime mover from which the waves come is be- 

yond good and evil, truth and untruth, and the waves are 
everywhere. They speak, these creatures, their lips move, but 
again it is the machine speaking through them: 

. . . "He invented the foods shot from guns at the skin 
you love to touch but your best friends won't tell you for 
three out of five are facing calendar fear another day of 
suspense learn to be charming the smart point of view with- 
out cost grandpa said I'll let you know my health to Quaker 
Oats I owe upon my face came long ago the smile that won't 
come off for skin eruptions need not worry you guard your 
dresses spare your friends perspiration may cost you both 
who'd believe they called me skinny 4 months ago I should 
think she'd notice it herself in closeups you can trust Blick's 
Velvasheen a better mouthwash at a big saving isn't it wonder- 
ful how Mary Ellen won the $ 5 ,000 beauty contest and Mrs. 
Jones wins her husband back at the foot of my baby's crib 
I made a solemn promise the girl of his dreams but she almost 
lost him in a month she didn't have a trace of constipation 
reports Dr. David of Paris what color nails at Newport all 
shades I'll lose my job if this keeps up can't make a sale 
can't even get people to see me I'd better ask the sales man- 
ager what's holding me back couldn't take on that man you 
just sent me seemed competent but careless about B. O. 
what a fool she is takes pains washing a sweater gives no care 
to her teeth and gums and she has pink toothbrush Mae West 
and the big hat she wore in "She Done Him Wrong" who 
will be the first to wear it in Chicago if Mona Lisa could 
have used these 4 Rosaleen eye beauty aids let's take a look 
at the record toasting frees Lucky Strike cigarettes from 
throat irritation William T. Tilden II steady smokers turn to 
Camels William T. Tilden II did you hear the French na- 
tion decorates Campbell's soup chef for sending the finest 
cooking throughout the civilized world Yeow! let's run away 
to sea travel has its niceties. . . ." 

This sub-human or un-human jabberwocky saturates the 


terrestrial atmosphere. It pours out of hundreds of thousands 
of loud speakers from eight o'clock in the morning until 
midnight. Doubtless the biologists will shortly inform us that 
this transformation of the auditory environment has caused 
definite degeneration and malformation of the average Ameri- 
can ear. Certainly the eyes must have been affected, for the 
same jabberwocky in print glares from the pages of billions 
of copies of magazines and newspapers and other billions of 
posters, carcards and mail communications. Is it any wonder 
that the American population tends increasingly to speak, 
think, feel in terms of this jabberwocky? That the stimuli of 
art, science, religion are progressively expelled to the periphery 
of American life to become marginal values, cultivated by 
marginal people on marginal time? That these marginal peo- 
ple are prevented from exercising their proper and necessary 
social functions except by permission of the jabberwock? 
That many of them indeed compromise fatally with the crea- 
ture and translate what they have to say into its obscene 

Let us not forget that the jabberwock feeds on what it 
destroys and that it restores and replaces nothing. It is fueled 
by the organic will-to-live of the population, which it calls 
"buying power." This buying power is progressively ex- 
hausted advertising as Veblen pointed out, is a form of 
sabotage on production just as our inorganic resources of 
coal, oil and minerals are progressively exhausted. After four 
depression years the jabberwock is hungry. It has devoured 
large sections of the lower and lower middle classes and 
expelled their dry bones, burned clean of their buying power, 
into the outer darkness. There the electric breath of the 
jabberwock still plays on them, but they are ash and slag. 
They cannot burn, they cannot feed the machine. Fifteen 
million of them are dependent upon relief. Another thirty 
million are so lean that they can fuel the jabberwock scarcely 
at all. You see them dumped like mail sacks on park benches. 


You see them fluttering like autumn leaves, magnetized into 
thin wavering lines job lines, bread lines. They sit in chilly 
rooms listening as before to the voice of the jabberwock, 
unwilling to believe that they have been consumed, discarded. 
The waves still pulsate and the ash of the great radio audience 
still glows a little there is so little other food. What is the 
jabberwock saying now? ... "I will share. . . . Don't sell 
America short. . . . Forward, America. . . ." 


I. The Command to Buy 

"FORWARD America"; "I have shared"; "We do our part." 
The depression slogans of both the Hoover and the Roose- 
velt administrations seem to imply a national unity, a culture. 
The people are to be "sold" on this culture as a part of the task 
of rehabilitating it. It is therefore proper to examine the con- 
tent of this culture, slightly down at the heels, as it is, in 
this fifth year of the depression. 

For this purpose the evidence provided by the editorial, 
article, fictional and advertising contents of the contemporary 
mass and class magazines is extraordinarily revealing. We 
have seen that the press, including the magazine press, is used 
as an instrument of rule. The rulers are the manufacturers, 
advertisers, distributors, financiers, etc., who use not merely 
the magazine advertisements but the total apparatus of this 
periodical press to enforce "the command to buy." This rule 
is exercised both by direct injunction to buy and by the pro- 
motion and stimulus of emulative and snob motivations, 
which in our society must be largely satisfied through the 
purchase and display of things. 

With the motivations and technique of this rule clearly in 
mind, we should expect to find a treatment of sex, economics, 
morals, philosophy, science, etc. designed to nourish and 
stimulate the buying motif. We find all of this and more. 
We find what amounts to a conspiracy of silence regarding all 
those aspects of the individual and social life that do not con- 


tribute to the objective of the advertiser, which is practically 
identical with that of the magazine itself. That objective is 
to promote sales and to extend, complicate and consolidate 
sheer emulative materialism as a way of life. We venture to 
say that no one who has not attentively examined these maga- 
zines inch by inch can conceive the astounding, sterile vacuity 
of these enormously expensive and enormously read "culture- 

The question that immediately arises is: do these magazines 
accurately reflect the culture or are they merely trying to in- 
flict a pseudoculture on their readers? In a curious way both 
things are true. It would seem that both the culture as lived 
and the culture as reflected by the magazines are pseudo- 
cultures. Neither in life nor even in the make-believe of the 
magazine fictioneer does this pseudoculture satisfy anybody. 
It does not even satisfy the wealthy, who can afford to live 
according to the snob, acquisitive, emulative pattern. The 
reductio ad absurdum of the theory of a self -sufficient ac- 
quisitive culture is found in Arts & Decoration which bullies 
and cajoles the rich into the discharge of their function as 
the ideal human representatives of a culture which has no 
content or meaning outside of acquisition and display. In 
arguing for this way of life a writer in Arts & Decoration 
is reduced to the following remarkable bit of philosophic yea- 
saying: "Chromium is more expensive than no chromium." 

These magazines are designed and edited with a view to 
making the readers content with this acquisitive culture, but 
even a commercial fictioneer has to put up a human "front." 
He has to use models. He has to exhibit, however super- 
ficially and shabbily the kind of people who work in Ameri- 
can offices and factories and on farms, and who walk the 
streets of American cities and towns. In so doing he inad- 
vertently and inevitably gives the whole show away. He 
proves that these robots galvanized by pure emulation are 
fragile puppets of glass. Mostly the characters are faked. 


When they are at all convincing they are definitely dissatis- 
fied and unhappy. 

This pseudoculture which is both reflected and promoted 
by the magazines is evidently in a process of conflict and 
change. In fact it may be said that there are two cultures: 
the older, more organic American culture, and the new, hard, 
arid culture of acquisitive emulation pure and simple. These 
cultures are in perpetual conflict. The emulative culture is 
what the magazine lives by; the older more human culture is 
what the reader wistfully desires. However, the magazines 
can afford to give the reader only a modicum of these warm 

The problem of the editor is essentially similar to that of 
the advertising copy writer. The purpose of the advertisement 
is to produce consumers by suitable devices of cajolement and 
psychological manipulation, in which truth is used only in so 
far as it is profitable to use truth. But the advertisement must 
be plausible. It must not destroy the reader-confidence which 
the copy writer is exploiting. 

In the same way the magazine editor may be thought of 
as producing, in the total editorial and fiction content of the 
magazine, a kind of advertisement. In this view the advertise- 
ment say in issue of The Woman's Home Companion must 
have some human plausibility; it must contain some truth, 
some reality, otherwise the magazine would lose circulation, 
i. e., reader-confidence. But the editor must never forget that 
the serious business of the magazine is the production of cus- 
tomers just as the writer of the individual advertisement 
must not use either more or less truth and decency than will 
produce a maximum of sales for his client. 

We examined single issues of thirteen representative and 
large circulation magazines in an attempt to determine the 
following facts: 

i.) Does the magazine promote buying, not only in the 


advertisements, but in the editorial, article, feature and fic- 
tion section of the magazine? 

2.) To what extent do the magazines permit criticism of 
the acquisitive culture? 

3.) Since literature, even popular literature, is supposed to 
reflect a culture, what kind of a culture, judged by the con- 
tents of these thirteen magazines, have we got? 

The thirteen magazines were chosen with the idea of having 
as many different types of magazines represented as possible. 
The attempt was also made to select magazines going to read- 
ers who belong to different income classes. Eight of the maga- 
zines analyzed have over one million circulation, and con- 
stitute over a third of the twenty-one magazines in the United 
States having circulations of this size. The list of magazines 
studied is as follows: 


Name of Magazine Circulation Income 


American Weekly* 5,581,000* * Low 

True Story 


1,597,000 Low 

1,664,000 Low 

1,378,000 Medium 

518,000 Medium 

American Magazine 2,162,000 Medium 


Illustrated Hearst Sun- 
day supplement. 
Confession magazine. 
Woman's magazine: 
rural type. 
White-collar class. 
Largest circulation 
movie magazine. 
Small-town, small-city 

* American Weekly, issue of Jan. 7, 1934; True Story, Dec. 1933; Household, 
Nov. 1933; Liberty, Dec. 23, 1933; Photoplay, Jan. 1934; American Magazine, 
Dec. 1933; Woman's Home Companion, Jan. 1934; Cosmopolitan, Dec. 1933; 
Saturday Evening Post, Dec. 16, 1933; Harper's Bazaar, Dec. 1933; Harper's 
Magazine, Jan. 1934; Nation's Business, Nov. 1933; Arts & Decoration, Nov. 

** Publisher's estimate. 



Name of Magazine Circulation Income 

Level Type 

Woman's Home 

Companion 2,235,000 Medium Woman's magazine: 

urban type. 
Cosmopolitan 1,636,000 Medium Urban magazine: much 

sex fiction. 
Saturday Evening 

Harper's Bazaar 
Harper's Magazine 

Nation's Business 

Arts & Decoration 

2,295,000 Medium Greatest advertising 

medium in the world. 

100,000 High High style fashions. 

111,000 High High-brow and sophis- 

214,000 High Organ of the Chamber 
of Commerce of the 
U. S. 

23,000 High Interior decoration for 
the rich. 


Our analysis shows that buying is promoted not only in 
the advertisements but in the fiction, articles, features, and 
editorials. A Woman's Home Companion story mentions a 
Rolls-Royce eighteen times. Harper's Bazaar gives free public- 
ity in its article section to 532 stores and products. The snob 
appeal, essentially a buying appeal, since successful snobbism 
depends in the main on the possession of things, appears in 
68 per cent of the subject matter of one magazine. To sum- 
marize: We find when the percentages for the thirteen maga- 
zines are averaged, that 30 per cent of the total space of the 
magazines is devoted to advertisements, and 13 per cent is 
devoted to editorial promotion of buying. Hence 43 per 
cent of the space in these magazines is devoted to commercial 


advertisements, and what may be called editorial advertise- 
ments, combined. We find also that snobbism is a major or 
minor appeal in 22 per cent of the subject matter of the 

There is a very striking correlation between the amount 
of space devoted to promoting buying and the amount of 
space devoted to criticism of the acquisitive culture. The more 
space a magazine devotes to promoting buying the less space 
it devotes to instruction, comment or criticism concerning 
economic and political affairs. Four of the thirteen magazines 
do not mention depression or recovery at all. Only two maga- 
zines, True Story and Liberty, question the desirability of 
the capitalist economy. Only two magazines, the American 
and Nation's Business, question whether it can be permanently 
maintained. In summary we find that: (i) No criticism of 
business appears in any editorial. (2) Some criticism of the 
acquisitive culture appears in the fiction. (3) Most of the 
criticism of existing conditions appears in articles and readers' 
letters. (4) The thirteen magazines devote, on the average, 
24 per cent of their editorial and article space to supplying 
the reader with information about economics, politics, and 
international affairs. ( 5 ) The women's magazines, which rank 
highest among the thirteen magazines in respect to the edi- 
torial promotion of buying, rank very low in regard to com- 
ment on economics, politics, and international affairs. They 
devote, on the average, 27 per cent of their space to editorial 
promotion of buying, and only 5 per cent of their space to 
comment on affairs. 

The following conclusions about the culture reflected in 
these magazines may be drawn: 

(1) This culture displays a surplus of snobbism, and a 
deficiency of interest in sex, economics, politics, religion, art, 
and science. 

(2) The United States does not have one homogeneous 
culture; it has class cultures. Summarizing the findings of this 

study in relation to class cultures, one may say that the cul- 
ture of the poor shows a strong bias in the direction of fear 
and sex, that the culture of the middle-class displays less 
sense of reality than the culture of the poor or the rich, and 
a higher degree of sexual frigidity, and that the culture of the 
rich tends to be emulative and mercenary. 

An analysis of 58 fiction heroines in 45 sex fiction stories 
in the ten magazines containing fiction shows the following 
differences between the heroines who appear in the magazines 
of the poor, the middle class, and the rich. In the magazines 
of the rich, 5 1 per cent of the heroines are mercenary. In the 
magazines of the middle class, 56 per cent of the heroines are 
unawakened or unresponsive women. In the magazines of the 
poor, 45 per cent of the women can be classified as being 
sexually responsive. The number of babies appertaining to 
these fiction heroines also throws interesting light on our class 
cultures. In magazine fiction as in life the poor women have 
the largest number of babies. While the 41 fiction heroines of 
the middle-class magazines produce only three children, the 
eleven fiction heroines of the magazines of the poor produce 

Further distinctions between the classes appear in the statis- 
tics on emulation. Emulation is the dominant appeal in the 
ads of six magazines which go to readers on the upper income 
levels. In the remaining seven magazines the magazines of 
the lower income levels fear is the dominant appeal. Emula- 
tion is also much stronger in the fiction and subject matter of 
the magazines of the upper income levels; it is, in fact, almost 
twice as strong as in the magazines of the poor. In the lower 
income group> magazines, 17 per cent of the subject matter 
has emulation as a major or minor appeal; in the upper in- 
come magazines, 31 per cent of the subject matter features 

(3) The acquisitive culture, that is the culture which 
emphasizes things and snobbism, battles, in the pages of these 


magazines, with an older tradition and culture, in which sex, 
economics, politics, and sentiment play major roles. The ac- 
quisitive culture is dominant in five magazines, the older 
culture in four magazines, while in the remaining four maga- 
zines, the two cultures co-exist side by side. One may say, in 
summary, that the acquisitive culture cannot stand on its own 
feet. It does not satisfy. Except in the fashion magazines, and 
in some of the women's magazines, it has to be offered to the 
reader with a considerable admixture of the older traditional 

(4) Correlating our various statistical findings, we note 
that the acquisitive culture is not accessible to the majority of 
Americans; also that it is not popular with the majority of 
Americans. The American population apparently has a sturdy 
realism which the magazine editors are forced to recognize. 
They do not want to spend their time reading fairy tales 
about the lives of the rich. What they prefer, is to read about 
heroes and heroines who are exactly one rung above them on 
the economic and social ladder, a rung of the ladder to which 
they themselves, by dint of luck, accident, or hard work, 
may hope to climb to. 

It would appear that the acquisitive culture reflected in 
these magazines is a luxury product designed for women and 
the rich. The focus upon women is because of their position 
as buyers for the family. The success of the emulative sales 
promoting technique as applied to middle-class women would 
appear to rest upon the fact that these women are restless, 
that they suffer from unsatisfied romanticism, and that, in 
many cases, they probably suffer also from unhappiness in 
their marital relations. This is perhaps the most significant 
finding of the study and we believe the reader will find it 
amply supported by the detailed evidence adduced in the 
succeeding chapters. 


II. Chromium is More Expensive 

Culture is, by definition, the sum total of the human en- 
vironment to which any individual is exposed and the test 
of a culture, or civilization, in terms of values is what kind of 
a life it affords, not for a few but for all of its citizens. 

The term culture, as used by anthropologists, ethnologists, 
and social scientists generally, does not, of course, coincide 
with the use of the word among the American working- 
classes, for whom it constitutes a description of the middle- 
class culture to which they so devoutly aspire. True Story 
Magazine, the favorite magazine of the proletariat, circula- 
tion 1,597,000, has a story about a poor boy, who marries a 
banker's daughter and makes good. On first being intro- 
duced into the banker's house he says: "It was my first 
experience in a home, where culture, ease and breeding were 
a part of everyday life." Household Magazine, circulation 
2,006,000, which is read by farm and small town women, has 
a page of advice to girls, conducted by Gladys Carrol Hast- 
ings, author of As the Earth Turns. Miss Hastings describes 
how a daughter of the rich is forced because of the depression 
to live on a farm and to do her own work. Miss Hastings 
says: "I choose not to stress how tired she was each night 
. . . how she longed for the ease and culture of other asso- 
ciations, how little her few neighbors satisfied her." 


The popular and proletarian use of the word "culture" 
points to a significant fact; the fact that, contrary to popular 
pre-war conceptions, we do have classes in the United States, 
and that any examination of our present American culture 
will, of necessity, break up into an examination of a number 
of class cultures. 

Two problems face the would-be examiner of contem- 


porary American culture. The first is to ascertain how many 
classes there are and the second is to find a measuring stick 
for the culture of each of these different classes. Both are nice 

It is noteworthy that there are no names, used in ordinary 
speech to characterize social classes, unless "racketeer" and 
"sucker" can be considered to be in this category. In which 
case we have not the Marxian antithesis of the workers versus 
the bosses, but the strictly American antithesis of suckers 
versus racketeers, complicated by the fact that most Ameri- 
cans are racketeers and suckers at one and the same time. 
Workers refer to themselves as "the working-class of peo- 
ple," executives discuss the white-collar class, ad-men refer 
to mass and class publications, fashion analysts study the 
high, medium, popular, and low style woman. Common speech 
is of little help in differentiating such social classes as we 
have, nor are the professional social scientists very useful. 
With the exception of Veblen's books and of the magnificent 
study Middletown made by the Lynds in 1927, which de- 
scribes minutely the culture of the working and business 
classes of a typical American city, the social scientists have 
added very little of any importance to what we know about 
the stratification of the American population and about 
American culture. 

The most valuable sources of information we have about 
the economic and cultural levels of the American population 
are such government statistics as the Army intelligence tests 
and income-tax returns, and the unpublished studies of con- 
sumer behavior on file in magazine offices and in advertising 
agencies. One of the best of these studies is the work of 
Daniel Starch. This study divides American families into in- 
come groups, computed in multiples of one-thousand dollars. 
Since this chapter expects to lean somewhat on Mr. Starch's 
researches, it will for the sake of brevity divide Americans 
into three economic classes, each of which proves on exam- 


ination to have a fairly distinct cultural pattern. Without 
bothering about exact names for these classes, since no idio- 
matic or exact names exist, we may refer to them briefly as 
the rich, the middle class and the poor. 

The poor, those having incomes of less than $2,000 a year, 
constituted in 1925, seventy-seven per cent of the population. 
Most of them live below the minimum comfort level. The 
richest members of this class can afford a minimum health 
and decency standard of living; the poorer members of this 
class cannot. During our most prosperous years, from 1922 
to 1929, the majority of Americans were living on less than 
70 per cent of the minimum health and decency budgets 
worked out by the United States Government bureaus. Life- 
long economic security is rare. This class is not of much in- 
terest to advertisers or editors. The Daniel Starch studies 
show that only 34 per cent of the circulation of twenty 
women's magazines goes to this group. 

The middle class, those having incomes between $2,000 
and $5,000 a year can afford comforts. Severe ill-health or 
prolonged depression periods, to mention only two of the 
most important causes, can ruin the economic security of 
middle-class families. Nevertheless, it may be said that life- 
long economic security is within the grasp of some of the 
more fortunate and thrifty members of this class. 

The rich, those having incomes of over $5,000 a year, are 
the class that pays income taxes. Even the poorest enjoy 
comforts and a few luxuries. With the richer members of this 
class, economic security becomes a possibility, and is, in a 
considerable percentage of cases, attained. 

There remains the problem of finding a measuring stick 
with which to measure the culture of these three classes; the 
poor, the middle class, and the rich. Culture has many as- 
pects; it is necessary within the space of this book to select 
one of these aspects. Clark Wissler, the well-known anthro- 
pologist, says in his book Man and Culture: "The study of 


culture has come to be regarded more and more, in recent 
decades, as the study of modes of thought, and of tradition, 
as well as of modes of action or customs." It is the modes of 
thought that concern us in this chapter. It is more difficult 
to find out what people are thinking than to discover what 
they are doing, but it is also more fascinating. 


The public's response to an art offers, perhaps, the best 
clue as to what is going on in people's minds. There are, as 
it happens, three popular arts in the United States, which are 
enjoyed to some extent by all classes; they are the press, the 
talkies and the radio. The talkies probably have most influ- 
ence, but the press is for obvious reasons easier to examine and 
measure; it is a better statistical foil. Moreover, in our maga- 
zine-press, in which each magazine is to some extent aimed 
at a particular class of readers, our class culture is more ac- 
curately reflected than in either the talkies or in radio pro- 

The only serious drawback to using the magazine-press as 
a measuring stick for the culture of our three arbitrarily 
selected classes is that a considerable section of the wage-earn- 
ing class, who constitute over 75 per cent of the population, 
do not read magazines very much because they cannot afford 
them. Mr. Starch's studies show that the most popular mag- 
azine of the rich, The Saturday Evening Post, is read by 6j 
per cent of all the families having over $5,000 a year, while 
True Story, the most popular magazine among the proletariat, 
is read by only 14 per cent of all the families having under 
$2,000 a year. Of the 14 per cent who read True Story, over 
two-thirds have incomes of $1,000 to $2,000 a year, while 
approximately one-third have incomes of $1,000 a year, or 

The extent to which the magazines do and do not reflect 


the culture of any specific economic class is shown in the 
following chart, based on Mr. Starch's figures. The reader 
will observe that all of the magazines cited have circulations 
in all three economic classes, and that most of the circulation 
lies in the middle-class group. To find magazines which rep- 
resent the rich as versus the middle class, it is necessary to 
seek examples among the so-called class magazines. On this 
chart, three magazines; Harper's Bazaar, Harper's Magazine, 
and Arts & Decoration, belong to the class magazine group. 
Each of these magazines has over 45 per cent of its circula- 
tion among the rich. In order to strengthen our sample of 
magazines catering to the rich, another class magazine, Na- 
tion's Business, has been added to the list of magazines to be 


The number of magazines which might be said to appeal 
in the main to the poor, and which also have large circula- 
tions, is disappointingly small. Only two magazines, True 
Story, which is proletarian in flavor, and Household, which 
is not, have over one-third of their readers among the poor. 
In seeking to fortify the number of magazines which might 
be expected to reflect the culture of the poor, two maga- 
zines were added to the list; The American Weekly, the il- 
lustrated Hearst Sunday supplement, which has one of the 
largest circulations of any periodical in the country, and 
Photoplay, the largest circulation movie magazine. Examina- 
tion proved however that Photoplay is probably to be con- 
sidered as a middle-class magazine. 

It might be noted in passing that, in the main, the poor 
have no press. We have discovered no large circulation mag- 
azine which has over 45 per cent of its circulation among 
the poor. One suspects that magazines like True Story cater to 



Middle Clue 

MASAZINE Art* And Decoration 
KEADERS: Harper's Magazine 

Harper's Bazaar 

Saturday Evening Pot 



American Magazine 
Woman's Home Companion 



True Story 



$ 5 ,000 and over 



the one -tenth of the working-class consisting of organized 
and skilled workers who can afford some comforts. One sus- 
pects further that the other nine-tenths of the wage as versus 
salary earners, although they may read the magazines, have, 
strictly speaking, no large circulation press at all. 



The advertising business has frequently been defined in 
this book as consisting of the newspaper and magazine press, 
the radio, the advertising agencies, and a considerable section 
of the talkie, paper, and printing industries. To the magazine 
editor and the ad-man a magazine consists of two parts: ad- 
vertisements and filler. The filler is designed to carry the 
advertisements. With rare exceptions, no way has so far been 
discovered of getting the public to pay for advertisements 
presented without filler. Hence the filler. 

This strictly commercial point of view of the magazine 
editor, the circulation manager, and the ad-man is not the 
reader's point of view. The reader thinks of a magazine in 
terms of fiction, articles, features, editorials, and advertise- 
ments. While he seldom buys the magazine for the ads, he 
may enjoy certain ads even more than he enjoys the contents 
of the periodical. In addition to hunting out the particular 
things in the magazine which appeal to him as an individual, 
or which he hopes to find tolerably palatable, he is more or 

(less aware of the personality of the magazine. Its slant on 
things is as well known to him as the slant of a family friend, 
and although he may not agree with the slant, he enjoys 
savoring of it. From the reader's point of view, therefore, 
one can add at least one more category to the commercial 
categories of the editor and ad-man. One can say that the 
magazine consists not only of advertisements and filler, but 
that it also has an editorial element, that there is in fact, in 
most cases, a certain editor-reader relation, which the reader 
is quite cognizant of. 

(That the editor-reader relation, just referred to, exists not 
only in the mind of the reader, but in the mind of the 
editor as well, is shown by the following statement made by 
Gertrude B. Lane, assistant editor of Woman's Home Com- 


panion. In a memorandum stating her objections to the Tug- 
well Bill, Miss Lane says: 

"I admit quite frankly that my selfish interests are involved. I 
have spent thirty years of my life building up a magazine which I 
have tried to make of real service to the women of America, and 
I have invested all my savings in the company which publishes this 
magazine. The magazine business and the newspapers, rightly or 
wrongly, have been made possible through national advertising. 
Great industries have been developed and millions of people em- 

Miss Lane's angle is interesting. Is advertising perhaps the 
culture, the swamp-muck, if you will, that exists to nourish 
this lily of service? If Miss Lane is correct, the question that 
will interest the magazine reader is not how thick is' the muck, 
but how tall and fragrant is the lily? An examination of the 
January, 1934, issue of Woman's Home Companion will 
perhaps answer this question. 


In looking for the service-angle suggested by Miss Lane, 
the writers felt that a correct estimate of the amount of 
service rendered the reader could perhaps best be found in 
editorials and articles, rather than in the fiction. Fiction was 
also considered in relation to service, and the results will be 
referred to later in this chapter. The concentration on edi- 
torials and articles proved, however, to offer the most useful 
index of service. The issue of the Woman's Home Compan- 
ion examined contained in its editorials and articles three 
items which could be listed under this head. 

Item I. Article "What Mothers Want To Know" (5^ inches). 
The writer, a physician, starts out by saying: "I- wonder if we city 
doctors write about the things that mothers want to know. At 


least sixty per cent of the mothers' letters received by Woman's 
Home Companion come from small cities, towns, or rural com- 
munities, which have practically no modern facilities, no hospitals 
or clinics for babies, well or sick, no pediatrists. Many of the let- 
ters are pathetic." 

Item II. Editorial "The Mighty Effort" (8 inches). This edi- 
torial urges Americans to support President Roosevelt's program. 
The dangers of this program can, in the opinion of the editors be 
avoided, "if the true American spirit prevails." The true American 
spirit consists in moderation. Owen D. Young is quoted as saying: 
"We must watch them that threaten us, both from inaction and 
over-action, not that we may punish them, but that we may pre- 
vent them from ruining us and themselves as well. It is unneces- 
sary for producers to unite into a trust ... it is unnecessary for 
labor to unite in unions ... it is unnecessary for consumers to 
unite in such a way as to threaten savings and labor employed in 

Item III. Letter. Signed, C. R. J., Oregon, entitled by the edi- 
tors, "Sensible Protest Against Frills" (8 l /z inches). Criticizes the 
home economics classes attended by country and small town chil- 
dren, in which the pupils are taught: "How to give orders to a 
maid and butler ... to put fancy frills on a chop bone, and to 
cook steaks." The writer notes that most of the parents of these 
children afford steaks and chops very rarely, and makes sensible 
suggestions as to what a home economics course for country chil- 
dren should contain. 

Of the 1,404 inches devoted to editorials and articles, 22 
inches, or about two-thirds of a page, is devoted to service. 
But the lily of service which raises its pure head in a naughty 
world should not be measured in inches or percentages alone. 
What does the two-thirds of a page devoted to service in the 
Woman's Home Companion net the reader? A reader makes 
a sensible statement, so sensible that one concludes that it 
might be an excellent thing for editors to turn over their 
editorial space to their shrewder readers. As far as the editors 
are concerned they have only two things to say to the reader. 

First: In a general editorial about recovery, they point out 
to their readers, who are consumers, that "it is unnecessary 
for consumers to unite in such a way as to threaten savings 
and labor employed in production." In suggesting that its 
readers do not become politically active as consumers, the 
Companion would seem to be serving its own interests rather 
than those of its readers. Second: They promise in the future 
to help the women living in small towns with their maternity 
problems. Excellent as this is, a promise of service does not 
constitute a service. If the Woman's Home Companion ful- 
fills its promise, this fulfillment will constitute a genuine 
service to the reader. 

Examination of the other twelve magazines selected for 
study is somewhat more reassuring than examination of the 
Woman's Home Companion. The service element of the 
other magazines as measured by the editorials and articles 
ranges as high as 88 or 79 per cent in contrast with the 
Woman's Home Companion's 1.5 per cent. The complete 
list of space devoted to service is as follows: Saturday Eve- 
ning Post, 88 per cent; Nation's Business, 79 per cent; Ameri- 
can Magazine, 41 per cent; Harper's Magazine, 37 per cent; 
Cosmopolitan, 28 per cent; Liberty, 24 per cent; True Story, 
1 6 per cent; Household Magazine, u per cent; Harper's 
Bazaar, 2 per cent; Woman's Home Companion, i.y per 
cent; American Weekly, .7 per cent; Photoplay, o; Arts & 
Decoration, o. 


To make sure that we are doing justice to the Woman's 
Home Companion, it might be well to state at this point 
what items the writers have considered to have a service angle. 
An examination of the thirteen selected magazines caused the 
writers to re-define service as sophistication, and specifically 


sophistication about economic and political affairs. Four 
kinds of items were included under Sophistication: 

1) Any reference to recovery or depression was considered to 
constitute sophistication, since it may be considered an index of 
interest in reality as opposed to fantasy. 

2) Any recognition that an economic or political situation was 
complex rather than simple was also considered to constitute so- 
phistication. A mention of three or four factors in a situation 
rather than one or two was considered to be complex as opposed 
to simple. 

3) Any facts which did not bear directly on the financial or 
emulative interest of the specific class of readers to whom the mag- 
azine is addressed, were considered to constitute sophistication. 
Note: Only two or three examples were found. 

4) Any criticism or satire of our contemporary culture and 
society which might be considered to apply not to a specific insti- 
tution but to the society as a whole. 

The standards set up as sophistication are not high. Any 
truly sophisticated presentation of an economic or political 
situation would usually have to cover more than three or 
four factors in the situation. Many of the articles in the 
Saturday Evening "Post, Nation's Business, and in such maga- 
zines as the Nation, New Republic, and Fortune, rate well 
above this three-or-four-factors-in-a-situation level. It has 
been the effort of the writers to include under sophistication 
everything which could possibly be included under this cat- 
egory. Most if not all of the rays of hope, inspiration or com- 
fort extended to the readers by the editors it has been pos- 
sible to pick up under one of the four categories used. 

When the results of the sophistication survey are averaged, 
it is found that the average magazine devotes 24.4 per cent 
of its editorial and article space to making the contemporary 
economic and political world which so notably affects the 
destinies of its readers somewhat comprehensible. The amount 

of sophistication is clearly one of the important elements in 
the editor-reader relation of the magazine. The extent to 
which the sophistication element in each of the magazines 
studied has vitality or sincerity, will be considered when the 
contents of individual magazines are described. 

The sophistication survey shows one notable fact; that 
magazines specifically for women are low in respect to so- 
phistication. Remembering that 24 per cent is the sophistica- 
tion average for thirteen magazines, consider the degree of 
sophistication of the following magazines catering mainly to 
women: Household Magazine, n per cent; Harper's Bazaar, 
2 per cent; Woman's Home Companion, 1.5 per cent; Photo- 
play, o; and Arts & Decoration, o. Harper's Bazaar, a fashion 
magazine; Photoplay, a movie magazine; and Arts & Decora- 
tion, an interior decoration magazine, are, of course, special- 
ized magazines, with no interest in economics or politics. 
Nevertheless, the line-up seems to have some significance. 
Contrast the women's magazine sophistication record, for 
example, with the sophistication record of the magazines 
which have an exclusive or heavy male readership; Saturday 
Evening Post, 88 per cent; Nation's Business, 79 per cent; 
and the American Magazine, 41 per cent. The claim that the 
contents of women's magazines reflect the provincialism and 
low intellectual status of women was made in an article in 
the December, 13, 1933, issue of the New Republic. This 
article provoked a spirited rebuttal from no less a person 
than Carolyn B. Ulrich, Chief of the Periodicals Division of 
the New York Public Library, New York City. Miss Ulrich 
says, among other things: 

"Who are the owners and editors of women's magazines? You 
will find that men predominate in the executive offices and on their 
editorial staffs. Would it not appear that we are still bound to what 
men think desirable? Is that what most women want? And are not 
these magazines really mediums for salesmanship, almost trade 


journals? Of the first importance in these magazines is the adver- 
tising. The subject matter comes second. The advertisements pay 
for the producing of the magazine. The subject matter, aside from 
a few sentimental stories, covers those interests that belong to 
woman's sphere. There, also, the purpose is to foster buying for the 
home and child. The entire plan of these magazines is based on the 
man's interest in its commercial success." 


In one of Miss Ulrich's sentences, we find the clue to the 
nature and character of our present women's magazines. 
Miss Ulrich says: "The subject matter . . . stories aside, 
covers those interests that belong to woman's sphere. There, 
also, the purpose is to foster buying." Miss Ulrich is correct. 
If the contents of the women's magazines are examined, it 
will be found that the editors devote from 48 to 15 per cent 
of the total contents of the magazine to ballyhooing certain 
classes of products or specifically named products; in short, 
to peddling something over the counter, just as advertise- 
ments do. The five magazines catering mainly to women, 
which rank very much below the average in respect to so- 
phistication, rank highest in respect to the amount of editorial 
space devoted to salesmanship. The proportion of the total 
space in the women's magazines devoted to editorial adver- 
tising is as follows: Arts & Decoration, 48 per cent; Harper's 
Bazaar, 34 per cent; Photoplay, 24 per cent; Household, 18 
per cent; Woman's Home Companion, 15 per cent. Harper's 
Bazaar devotes 26 of its non-advertising pages to mentioning 
the names of 523 stores and products. 

The nature and character of our women's magazines be- 
comes clear if one realizes that in these magazines the editor- 
reader relation has been perverted. Where this relation has 
vitality and sincerity, the readers get from the magazine 
something not wholly commercial. They do not merely get 


enough filler or entertainment to make them swallow the 
advertising; they are given something definite and humanly 
valuable, a friendly relation to the editor, who is or should 
be, from the reader's point of view, a person whose specific 
job it is to know more about affairs in general than the 
reader can take time to know. An editor's analysis of a situa- 
tion, his judgment about it, have some weight with the 
reader, just as a friend's analysis of a situation and judgment 
about it have. However, where the editor-reader relation is 
perverted, as in the women's magazines, the editor does not 
give the reader something; he takes something away from the 
reader. It is a case of the right hand giveth and the left hand 
taketh away. The left hand of the editor takes away from the 
reader part of the non-advertising or subject matter space of 
the magazine which is presumably what the reader pays for, 
and devotes it to editorial advertising. The right hand of the 
editor gives the reader something humanly valuable; sophis- 
tication. In the five magazines catering primarily to women, 
as the accompanying chart shows, the editorial left hand, the 
hand which takes, is the active hand. 


Editorial advertising in the accompanying chart includes 
three categories. In the order of their importance, that is, in 
the order of the amount of space devoted to them, they are as 

Item i: Pushing of advertised products. 

Item 2: Pushing of sales of, or subscriptions to the magazine. 

Item 3: Editorials or articles, pushing buying in general, or 
pushing the buying of certain classes of products, which may or 
mav not appear in the magazine's advertisements. 

Of the total space of the thirteen magazines, 10.9 per cent 
is, on the average, devoted to pushing products; 2.6 per cent 






I 0.8% 


Liber ty 

Saturday Evening Post 
Nation's Business 
American Magazine 
American Weekly 

is devoted to pushing the magazine; and one per cent to push- 
ing buying generally. House ads, pushing the sale of the 
magazine are familiar, and hardly need illustration. The push- 
ing of advertised products is also more or less familiar. A few 
examples will probably suffice: 

Artificial Silks 

"I sometimes think the women of today aren't sufficiently thank- 
ful for or appreciative of the fabric marvels which are theirs. . . . 
As a miracle, for instance, doesn't artificial silk answer every re- 
quirement of the word?" (True Story: "Sheer Fabrics That Would 
Make Cleopatra Jealous.") 


Oil Heaters 

"Where lack of a basement makes installation of the usual type 
of cellar plant impossible . . . there are heat cabinets available. 
. . . With one of these oil heaters in a room, the old fire-building, 
stove-nursing, ash-carrying, half -warmed days are over." (True 
Story: "Is Your Home Old-Fashioned in Its Heating Apparatus?") 

Canned Meats 

"In looking around to see just what I could discover in canned 
meats and chickens, I found great variations in the size of their 
containers." (Household Magazine: "A Short Cut to Meats The 

Condensed Milk 

"She (my grandmother) tried cow's milk, the best she could 
obtain, but without any improvement. In desperation she finally 
tried a spoonful of the new condensed milk, a recent invention that 
a newcomer in the gold camp had brought from the East. The baby 
loved it." (True Story: "From My Grandmother's Diary.") 

Electric Lamps 

"She spent many months of patient searching for just the right 
lamps at just the right prices. Lamps that would give the perfect 
angle of light. . . ." (Woman's Home Companion: "A Healthful 


"No place in the world has such sparkle as New York at this 
time of year. Come for the fun of shopping ... to see the new 
ballets ... to enjoy the restaurant life of these new days of the 
wine list. . . . For help in choosing your hotel, write to the Travel 
Bureau." (Harper's Bazaar: "New York at Christmas.") 

Tea Table Accessories 

"All of our social existence is tied up in a few familiar rituals. 
A hostess is known by her tea tables and dinner tables. Marriages 
and births and political victories and personal achievements are 

celebrated there. . . . Occasionally something definite and perma- 
nent arises phoenix-like from a passing mode. Lines that appeared 
as startling innovations on the tea tray of some smart hostess grad- 
ually become familiar in decorative treatment and in architecture. 
So a new style is created." (Arts & Decoration: "A Portfolio of 
Modern Accessories.") 

Somewhat more subtle and interesting are editorials and 
advertisements pushing buying generally, or the buying of 
certain classes of products. 

"A Call to Colors for the American Male" 

"The pioneering hard-fisted, hard-boiled American Male will cheer 
campaign speeches on the benefits of rugged individualism and 
whistle laissez faire, whenever he has to keep up his courage in a 
financial crisis. He will grow turgidly eloquent on the benefits 
both to himself and society of doing just as he sees fit when and if 
he pleases. He will battle to his last breath against any code pre- 
scribing a uniform way of running his business, auditing his ac- 
counts, educating his children or divorcing his wives. Any form of 
regulation is to him a symptom of Bolshevik tyranny. But the one 
moment when he is terrified of freedom is when he buys his clothes. 
He is -more afraid of wearing a bright orange necktie to bis office 
than of carrying a red flag in a communist parade" (Harper's 

"Bare Without Jewels" 

"To the great dressmakers and to the women who make fashion 
a matter for prayer and meditation, and especially to foreign women, 
we Americans are as incomplete as the vermilionless painting. 
. . . Lean back in a stall in Covent Garden on a Ballets Russe night 
and compare the jewels you see with those worn at the average 
American soiree. Foreigners cannot understand our modesty in this 
regard. How extraordinary, they say, that you Americans who have 
money are content with the small bracelet, the one string of pearls, 
the nice ring or two. . . . 

These simple molded gowns of black or jewel colored velvets, 


these dark green sheaths, these brilliant columns of stiff white satin 
crave the barbaric fire of emeralds, diamonds, rubies. . . . For the 
last twenty years we have been genteel and timid about jewelry. 
It was not always thus. Let those who feel shocked by this modern 
splendor remember that their aristocratic grandmamas blazed with 
dog collars and tiaras. And who are we to say that the Queen of 
Sheba was not a lady?" (Harper's Bazaar.) 


"A contemporary chair or service plate can range as far in cost 
and beauty as those of Louis the XlVth or any other period. 
Chromium is more expensive than no chromium, beveled glass is 
more expensive than glass that is not beveled" (And a vote for 
Wintergreen is a vote for Wintergreen.) Arts & Decoration. 

Perhaps it is because editorial advertising is newer than 
pure advertising that the tone of editorial advertising is often 
so brash. In Arts & Decoration, the magazine which has the 
highest percentage of editorial advertising, the situation has 
gone so far that the strident voice of salesmanship concen- 
trates in the subject matter, while the advertisements are 
comparatively dignified and serene. 

The editor-reader relation is the vital core of the magazine. 
The study of thirteen magazines shows that this relation has 
its credit and debit side; that it is at once an Angel Gabriel 
and a Lucifer. In short, it is a most human relation, in which 
the itchiness of the editor, eager to attract more advertising 
and revenue, competes with his desire to be humanly useful. 

No description of the magazines would be complete with- 
out a reference to the advertisements, which in contradis- 
tinction to the editorial advertisements, are openly and un- 
hypocritically concerned with selling. Our statistics show that 
on the average 30.6 per cent, or a little less than a third of 
the magazine is devoted to straight advertising, while on the 
average 43.5 per cent, or a little over two-fifths of the maga- 
zine, is devoted to straight advertising and editorial advertis- 

ing combined. This 43.5 per cent is the Selling-end of the 
magazine. The other 54.6 per cent is devoted to what is gen- 
erally known as filler and what for the purposes of this study 
we have defined as Sophistication and Entertainment. 


It is perhaps worth noting that the five magazines catering 
mainly to women rank highest not only in respect to the 
proportion of space in the total contents of the magazine 
devoted to editorial advertising, but also in the proportion 
of space devoted to selling. The amount of space devoted to 
selling averages 43 per cent in the thirteen magazines and 
62 per cent in the case of the five women's magazines. 

Advertisements are, to the student of a culture, one of the 
most revealing sections of the magazine. A great many studies 
of advertising have been made. First, they reflect, as in a 
mirror, the material culture of a people. Second, they throw 
light on economic levels and class stratification. With the ma- 
terial culture of the United States we are not, in this chapter, 
primarily concerned. The extent to which advertisements re- 
flect class stratifications has already been mentioned, and will 
be referred to again in more detail. For the moment, we shall 
limit ourselves to asking one question: To what extent do the 
advertisements in these thirteen magazines give the reader 
useful information about the product? The success of the 
magazine, Ballyhoo, and its imitators, showed that many 
people found some ads absurd, and perhaps annoying, and 
that they were glad to have them kidded. Not all advertis- 
ing, however, is of this character. The question is what pro- 
portion of the ads are useful, and what proportion are natural 
material for satire? 

It was necessary to find a simple measuring stick. An 
analysis of the advertisements showed that they appealed to 
many different instincts on the part of the reader, to fear, 


to sex, to emulation, to the desire to make money, the desire 
to save money, and so forth. Moreover, a single advertisement 
often combines several appeals. It soon became apparent that 
the three major appeals of the ads, those that appeared most 
frequently, were fear, sex, and emulation. It was therefore 
decided to break up the ads into two categories: i) those that 
unmistakably contained one of these three appeals, regardless 
of what other appeals the individual ad might also contain; 
2) ads which did not contain one of these three appeals, and 
which were called straight ads. In the main, it might be said 
that the straight ads contain more description of the prod- 
uct than the fear-sex-or-emulation ads. This latter type of 
ad is more concerned with creating atmosphere than with 
describing the product. 

What the writers mean by advertisements appealing to the 
instincts of fear or sex hardly requires explanation. Emula- 
tion, however, needs to be defined. As used in this chapter, 
emulation is equivalent to snobbism, it is the keeping-up- 
with-the-Joneses motif, the desire on the part of the indi- 
vidual to prove to his neighbors that his social status is 
enviable. In short, it is a particular form of competitiveness, 
relating not to personal charm or financial rating, but simply 
and strictly to success in maintaining or achieving social 

An examination of the ads showed that, on the average, 39 
per cent of the ads are fear-sex-and-emulation ads, while 61 
per cent are straight ads. The minimum percentage of fear- 
sex-and-emulation ads was 6 per cent; the maximum, 66 per 
cent. Three out of the four magazines that reflect the cul- 
ture of the rich, the Class "A" magazines, were low in re- 
spect to fear-sex-and-emulation ads. The statistics are as fol- 
lows: Harper's Bazaar, 57 per cent; Nation's Business, 28 
per cent; Arts & Decoration, 23 per cent; and Harper's 
Magazine, 17 per cent. No equally clear correlation appears 
in regard to the magazines which rank high in respect to fear- 


sex-and-emulation appeals. Nevertheless, it may perhaps be 
said that a low percentage of fear-sex-and-emulation ads is 
characteristic of the Class "A" magazines. This correlation 
may perhaps to some extent reflect the sophistication of this 
class; what it probably reflects in the main is the good man- 
ners of the rich; the desire for good tone, as versus vulgarity 
or stridency. 

A further correlation between the fear-sex-and-emulation 
ads and class stratification appears, when we consider the per- 
centage of advertising space devoted to each one of these 
three appeals in the various magazines. The appeal to fear 
predominates in seven magazines, which are, generally speak- 
ing, the magazines of the lower income-levels, while the 
appeal to emulation predominates in six magazines of the 
upper income-levels. In no magazine is the appeal to sex 
dominant over the appeal to fear or to emulation. The follow- 
ing graph shows not only what percentage of the total adver- 
tising space is devoted to appeals to fear, sex, and emulation, 
but which is the dominant appeal in each magazine. 

A little reflection shows that the dominance of the fear 
appeal in the magazines of the lower income -levels and the 
dominance of emulation in the magazines of the upper in- 
come-levels is quite natural. The poor cannot afford emula- 
tion; the rich can. Moreover, the poor are used to fear and 
insecurity, with them the reference to fear is not an alien 
thing. As is the case with primitive peoples, they live sur- 
rounded by fears. 

The fact that sex proves in the advertisements of these 
typical American magazines to be less powerful as an appeal 
than either fear or emulation is interesting. One grants easily, 
without being able to prove it, that fear is probably a stronger 
motivation than sex, in all societies. The question remains 
whether emulation is in all societies a stronger motive than 
sex, or whether it is merely in American society that emula- 




Average for 13 Magazines: HH 15% HI 9% BBS 14% 
Harper's Bazaar 

Saturday Evening Pose B9B 

Arcs And Decoration. 

American Magazine fiHHH I tlsilia ft 

Nation's Business A 

Harper's Magazine BHHH mS A 

Woman's Home Companion, 

True Story 

American Weekly B C 

Household HBHBH I C 

tion is a powerful motivation, while sex is a weak motiva- 

Before leaving the discussion of the ads to consider the 
section of the magazines devoted to what we choose to call 
Entertainment, it may be in point to make a few concluding 
but scattering comments concerning advertisements. 

First: We have seen that the majority of the ads, 61 per 
cent, are straight ads, dealing in the main with the product, 
rather than fear-sex-or-emulation ads, which are interested 
mainly in creating emotion or atmosphere. A qualifying note 


is necessary at this point. It would be inaccurate to assume 
that 6 1 per cent of the ads devote themselves mainly to de- 
scribing the product. The majority of these ads devote more 
space to describing the effect upon the buyer of using the 
product than to describing the product itself. Very elaborate 
statistical work would have been necessary to document this 
observation, and because of the difficulties involved, no work 
of this character was done. 

Second: With two exceptions, advertisements of products 
that appear in the magazines of the rich, the middle classes 
and the poor, tend to be the same; that is, to have the same 
words and copy, the assumption of the ad-men being that we 
Americans are all brothers and sisters under the skin. Of the 
two conspicuous exceptions, one has already been noted, 
namely: the fact that fear appeals predominate in the lower 
income-brackets, while emulation appeals dominate in the 
upper income-brackets. The other exception is that the fear 
appeals in the lower income-brackets are somewhat cruder 
than the fear appeals in the upper income-brackets. Specifi- 
cally, there is more appeal to fear of parents for the safety 
and well-being of their children. Illnesses and discomforts 
from which both adults and children may suffer are in many 
instances embellished with photographs of wan, reproachful 

(1) "Mother, Why Am I so Sore and Uncomfortable?" 
(Waldorf Toilet Tissue ad in True Story.) 

(2) "Scolded For Mistakes That Father and Mother 
Made." (Postum General Foods ad in Household Magazine.) 

(3) "And Don't Go Near Betty Ann She's a Colds- 
Susceptible." (Vick's ad in Women's Home Companion.) 

Third: An examination of the advertising and also of the 
editorial contents of the magazines shows that the commercial 
interests back of the magazines treat women and the poor with 
scant respect, while men and the rich have a somewhat better 


III. The Ad-Man's Pseudoculture 

It is perhaps desirable once more to say what we mean by 
the ad-man and what we mean by the pseudoculture. We 
have tried to show in the preceding chapter that the com- 
mercial American magazines are essentially advertising busi- 
nesses. Hence the editors of these magazines may be, with 
some minor qualification, correctly characterized as adver- 
tising people motivated by considerations of profit. 

But a society does not and cannot live solely by acquisi- 
tive and profit-motivations. If this were possible the joint 
enterprise of the advertising writer and the commercial 
magazine editor, which is, by and large, to promote and 
construct a purely acquisitive culture, would be a stable and 
successful enterprise. 

It is nothing of the sort. Frankly the writers started with 
a pessimistic hypothesis, viz.: that the acquisitive-emula- 
tive cultural formula had so debauched the American people 
that they really liked and approved this formula as worked 
out by the mass and class magazines. The writers expected 
on examining the magazines to find the acquisitive culture 
dominant in all of them, and to find that in the majority of 
cases this culture existed undiluted by any admixture of the 
older, traditional American culture. If they had found what 
they expected to find, they would have been obliged to 
accept the conclusion that the ad-man's acquisitive-emula- 
tive culture is an organic thing, something capable of sustain- 
ing human life. The findings did not show this. On the con- 
trary, they showed beyond the possibility of a doubt that 
the acquisitive culture cannot stand on its own feet, that 
it does not satisfy, that it is, in fact, merely a pseudoculture. 

The magazines live by the promotion of acquisitive and 
emulative motivations but in order to make the enterprise in 
the least tolerable or acceptable to their readers it is necessary 
to mix with this emulative culture, the ingredients, in vary- 


ing proportions, of the older American culture in which sex, 
sophistication, sentiment, the arts, sciences, etc., play major 
roles. Only three of the thirteen magazines examined are able 
to build and hold a circulation on the basis of an editorial 
content consisting solely of acquisitive and emulative appeals. 
All of these three are in one way or another special cases. 
Arts & Decoration, Harper's Bazaar, and Photoplay are all 
three essentially parasitic fashion magazines. The first two are 
enterprises in the exploitation of the rich, who constitute over 
50 per cent of their circulation. Photoplay, a middle class 
gossip and fashion sheet, is, by and large, simply a collection 
agent for the acquisitive and emulative wants built up by the 
movies which, as we have seen, function predominantly as a 
want-building institution in the American culture. 

In other words the business of publishing commercial 
magazines is a parasitic industry. The ad-man's pseudoculture 
parasites on the older, more organic culture, just as the ad- 
vertising business is itself a form of economic parasitism; in 
Veblen's language, it represents one of the ways in which 
profit-motivated business "conscientiously withdraws effi- 
ciency from the productivity of industry," this "conscien- 
tious sabotage" being necessary to prevent the disruptive 
force of applied science from shattering the chains of the 
profit system. It is, we feel, important to note that this 
phenomenon of parasitism or sabotage extends not merely to 
the economy considered as a mechanism of production and 
distribution but to the culture considered as a system of 
values and motivations by which people live. 

But the American people do not like this pseudoculture, 
cannot live by it, and, indeed, never have lived by it. The 
magazines analyzed, which were published during this the 
fifth year of a depression, show that fiction writers, sensitive 
to public opinion, often definitely repudiate this culture. 
Americans tend, at the moment, if the magazine culture can 
be considered to be a mirror of popular feeling, to look, not 

forward into the future, but backward into the past. They 
are trying to discover by what virtues, by what pattern of 
life, the Americans of earlier days succeeded in being admir- 
able people, and in sustaining a life, which, if it did not have 
ease and luxury, did seem to have dignity and charm. Al- 
though the main drift of desire is toward the past, there are 
other drifts. Some editors and readers even envision revolu- 
tion and the substitution of a new culture for the acquisitive 
and the traditional American culture. 


In the older, more humane culture, sex and sophistication 
are the major elements. In the artificial profit-motivated 
pseudoculture by which the commercial magazine lives and 
tries to make its readers live, emulation tends to replace sex 
as a major interest, whereas sophistication dwindles and ulti- 
mately disappears. The following table exhibits a striking 
inverse ratio: 


Per cent of editorial and Per cent of total 

article space devoted -magazine space devoted 
Magazine to sophistication to editorial advertisements 
Saturday Evening Post 88% 3% 
Nation's Business 79% 8% 
American Magazine 4 J % 2 % 
Harper's Magazine 37% 7% 
Cosmopolitan 28% 3% 
Liberty 24% 4% 
True Story 16% 6% 
Household 1 1 % 1 8 % 
Harper's Bazaar 2% 34% 
Woman's Home Com- 
panion *>5% I 5% 



Per cent of editorial and Per cent of total 

article space devoted magazine space devoted 

Magazine to sophistication to editorial advertisements 

American Weekly .7 % i / G 

Photoplay .0% 24% 

Arts & Decoration .0% 48% 

In the Saturday Evening Post we find the maximum of 
editorial and article space, 88 per cent, devoted to sophistica- 
tion. By sophistication we mean a realistic attempt by the 
editors to deal with the facts and problems which constitute 
the everyday concerns of their readers. The Post devotes a 
minimum of space to editorial advertising. Yet, paradoxically 
enough, the Saturday Evening Post is the greatest advertising 
medium in the world. This would seem to indicate that edi- 
torial advertising is to a magazine what makeup is to a plain 
woman. Not that the Post is in any true sense a satisfactory 
and creative cultural medium. The most that can be said for 
the Post is that it functions with some sincerity and effec- 
tiveness as the organ of a specific economic and social class. 

At the bottom of this dual ascending and descending scale, 
we find Arts & Decoration with a sophistication rating of 
zero and 48 per cent of its total space devoted to editorial 
advertising. Obviously, Arts & Decoration represents the 
phenomenon of pure commercial parasitism. It is the organ of 
nothing and nobody except its publishers and advertisers, and 
it holds its 18,000 readers by a mixture of flattery and insult, 
which magazine publishers, it seems, consider to be the 
proper formula to be used on the new-rich and the social 
climber. The slogan would seem to be: Mannerless readers de- 
serve a mannerless magazine. 

There is another inverse ratio in which this battle of the 
cultures is apparent. In the magazine literature of the pre- 



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war days, men and women grew up, fell in love, married, 
had children, and lived more or less happily ever after. Among 
current magazine examples we find that the American Maga- 
zine is still reasonably confident that this biological pattern 
is fundamental to human life. In 78 per cent of its fiction 
content sex sentimental sex is a major appeal. Signifi- 
cantly, we note that only three per cent of the American 
Magazine's non-advertising space is devoted to promoting 
emulative motivations. With the Saturday Evening Post, a 
magazine which goes to a somewhat wealthier class of read- 
ers than the American, the emphasis on sex has lessened, and 
the interest in the acquisitive society is much more pro- 
nounced. Only 28 per cent of the Post's fiction is devoted to 
sex, compared to the American's 78 per cent. 45 per cent of 
the Post's subject matter space is devoted to emulation. Still 
more extreme is the situation in respect to Photoplay and Arts 
& Decoration, where sex rates five and zero per cent respec- 
tively, and emulation rates 20 and 43 per cent. 

The magazine spectrum breaks down into three major 
categories; the five magazines in which the acquisitive cul- 
ture is dominant, the four magazines in which the two cul- 
tures co-exist; and the four remaining magazines in which the 
older culture is dominant. It is significant that the first group 
of magazines caters exclusively to women; the second and 
third groups to both men and women. 

There are two other women's magazines in which the ac- 
quisitive culture is dominant. The Woman's Home Compan- 
ion is edited for the urban woman, and Household Magazine, 
the largest and most popular of the rural women's magazines, 
caters to the small town and farm woman. Woman's Home 
Companion may be said to be typical of the six urban 
women's magazines with over 1,000,000 circulation Ladies' 
Home Journal, McCalls, Woman's Home Companion, Good 
Housekeeping, Pictorial Review, and Delineator; while 
Household is typical of the five rural women's magazines 


with over 1,000,000 circulation Household, Woman's 
World, Needlecraft, Mother's Home Life and Household 
Guest, and Gentlewoman. These nine magazines alone dis- 
tribute 239,000,000 copies of their product every year. 

There is a distinct difference between the rural and the 
urban women's magazines; the rural magazines being much 
closer to the older traditional American culture. Household 
Magazine is one of the few magazines on our list that men- 
tions God; the poetry is nai've and sincere, and the editor is 
human, honest, and even imaginative about his readers. The 
difficulty with Household would seem to be that there is a 
conflict between the editorial office and the business office; 
the business office being intent on apeing the formula and 
commercialism of the urban women's magazine group. In 
the urban women's magazines, the older American culture has 
become so thin as to be hardly visible. Even the interest in 
sex withers away in the Companion. While Household de- 
votes 58 per cent of its fiction to sex, the Companion gauges 
its readers' interest in sex at 22 per cent. The sophistication 
element in Household is 16 per cent; in the Companion it is 
1.5 per cent. 

The group of four magazines in which neither culture 
is dominant, but in which both cultures exist side by side, in- 
cludes the Cosmopolitan, Liberty, True Story and the Satur- 
day Evening Post. The following table will show what ele- 
ments of the two cultures are present: 

Magazine Older Culture Acquisitive Culture 

Saturday Evening Post Sophistication Emulation 

Cosmopolitan Sex Emulation 

Liberty Sex Emulation 

True Story Sex Emulation 

In the magazines in which emulation is dominant, less than 
three-fifths of the fiction is concerned with sex. But in Cos- 


mopolitan, Liberty and True Story over three-fifths of the 
fiction is concerned with sex. The acquisitive culture is repre- 
sented by a considerable dash of emulation: Cosmopolitan 13 
per cent; Liberty 17 per cent; and True Story 30 per cent. 
In connection with True Story it should be pointed out that 
the emulative escape for the poor is crime and that this fact 
is quite definitely recognized in the fiction content of this 

The Saturday Evening Post is in a class by itself. Its sophis- 
tication content of 88 per cent is the highest of any of the 
magazines examined, and its emulative content of 45 per 
cent is second only to Harper's Bazaar, which is 68 per cent. 
A third of the Post's readers have incomes of over $5,000 a 
year. They can afford to play this emulative game and the 
Post as a commercial enterprise duly exploits this fact in its 
fictional content. 

There are four magazines in which the older culture is 
dominant: the American Magazine, Harper's Magazine, Na- 
tion's Business and the American Weekly. In Harper's Maga- 
zine we find perhaps the most typical expression of the "cul- 
tured" upper-middle-class tradition, as it carries over from the 
nineteenth century. The readers of Harpers are given no 
emulative stimulus whatever, except in the ads. The sophisti- 
cation rating is 37 per cent. Harpers ranks fourth in this 
respect. In the American Magazine, the prewar, precrash cul- 
ture persists. In particular, this magazine continues to exploit 
the fictional formula of the prewar culture. Its preoccupa- 
tion with the pretty romantic aspects of courtship reveals 
how strong is the cultural lag against which the hard, gal- 
vanic, emulative culture battles. In its articles and editorials, 
the American appeals to the small city and small town Ameri- 
can man, who admires business success, bristles alertly about 
politics, and believes that the world is inhabited by villains 
and kind people, with the kind people in a position of 


In the American Weekly we encounter another emulation 
zero. Its readers are urban proletarians, too poor to play the 
emulative game. The Hearst formula realizes that they are 
strongly interested in sex: 65 per cent, but that they are even 
more interested in science. Three times as much space is de- 
voted to science as to sex. True, the science is of a primitive 
sort, like Paul Bunyan's "Tales of the Blue Ox." Typical 
American Weekly titles are: "The Sleeping Habits of the 
Chimpanzee," "The Growth of the Iron Horse Since the Six- 
Wheeled Locomotive," "Chicago Observatory Telegraphs to 
the Dead," "Why Our Climate Is Slowly Becoming Tropical," 
"What the Tower of Babel Really Looked Like." The Ameri- 
can Weekly is quite simply concerned with serving a satis- 
fying dish of weekly thrills. The technique is robust since 
the modern world is full of wonders and the appetites of the 
readers are not complicated. 

The Nation's Business is another very special case. This 
magazine is the official organ of the United States Chamber 
of Commerce, while the Saturday Evening Post might be 
thought of as its unofficial organ. The Nation's Business ranks 
with the Saturday Evening Post in point of sophistication. Its 
editorial content is devoid of emulative appeal and even the 
advertisements rate remarkably low in these respects; only 9.6 
per cent of the ads appeal to emulation. 

It would be a commonplace to remark that most of the 
editorial content of these magazines is quite ephemeral. Fifty 
years hence the literary historian will probably have little 
difficulty in condensing the creative contribution of our total 
commercial magazine-press during the postwar period into a 
brief dismissive paragraph to the effect that the fugitive litera- 
ture of this period was ugly, faked and frail. After one has 
diligently read this curious stuff over a period of weeks, one 
begins to see our contemporary magazine pseudoculture as 
an almost human creature. It is a robot contraption, strung 
together with the tinsel of material emulation, galvanized 


with fear, and perfumed with fake sex. It exhibits a definite 
glandular imbalance, being hyperthyroid as to snobbism, but 
with a deficiency of sex, economics, politics, religion, science, 
art and sentiment. It is ugly, nobody loves it, and nobody 
really wants it except the business men who make money 
out of it. It has a low brow, a long emulative nose, thin, 
bloodless, asexual lips, and the receding chin of the will-less, 
day-dreaming fantast. The stomach is distended either by the 
abnormal things-obsessed appetite of the middle-class and the 
rich, or by the starved flatulence of the poor. Finally it is 
visibly dying for lack of blood and brains. 


In anatomizing this pseudoculture we must refer again to 
our definition of culture as the sum-total of the human en- 
vironment to which any individual is exposed, and point out 
again that the test of a culture is what kind of a life it 
affords not for a few but for all of its citizens. One grants 
immediately that emulation has a place in any genuine cul- 
ture. It is a question of balance, and the point here made is 
that the quantity and kind of emulation exhibited by the 
magazine pseudoculture is such as to affect adversely and 
probably disastrously the viability of this synthetic creature 
that the magazines offer us. Specifically, snobbism appears to 
be the antithesis of sex. Where the first is dominant, the other 
tends to be recessive. 

An analysis of the entire contents of the thirteen maga- 
zines shows that sex and emulation are the principal appeals 
in the subject matter. Sentiment occupies on the average only 
1.8 per cent of the total space in the magazines, humor only 
.9 per cent. In the advertisements there is more emulation 
than sex. The average appeal to sex in the ads in the thirteen 
magazines is 9.6 per cent, the average appeal to emulation is 
14.7 per cent. In the subject matter sex continues to domi- 


nate emulation. This is particularly true in the fiction where 
5 5 per cent of the stories have sex as the main appeal. Emula- 
tion, however, occupies no inconsiderable place in the maga- 
zines. Twenty-two per cent or one-fifth of the subject matter 
is concerned with emulation. 

There is one generalization about emulation as it appears 
in these magazines that can safely be made, emulation is not 
a commodity that can be offered to the poor. Not even the 
lower middle-class can afford it. It is distinctly for the well- 
to-do and for the rich. While fear is the dominant appeal in 
the advertising sections of seven magazines which are read by 
the lower income class, emulation is the dominant appeal in 
the advertisements of six magazines which go to the upper 
income-levels. For example: in True Story, 42 per cent of 
the ads are fear ads. In contrast, Harper's Bazaar has no fear 
ads, and 3 5 per cent of the ads are devoted to emulation. 

Emulation is, of course, most apparent in magazines in 
which the acquisitive, emulative culture is undiluted, like 
Harper's Bazaar, Arts & Decoration and Photoplay. In the 
previous chapter, "Chromium Is More Expensive," we have 
already quoted emulative editorial advertising taken from 
the first two of these magazines. A few brief examples of 
snobbism, chosen not only from these magazines but from 
the general list of magazines, will perhaps illustrate the preva- 
lence of snobbism and its character. 

(1) "It was a subtle satisfaction that no big social affair was 
considered complete without us. 'Were the Roger Browns there?' 
was the regular question in the aftermath of gossip." (True Story) 

(2) " 'She's one of the Mount-Dyce-Mounts.' 'One of the Mount- 
Dyce-Mounts,' echoed John unbelievingly, and forgetting all about 
Jean, he hurried down the steps . . . and went up to where the 
old lady had settled herself in a chair. John introduced himself with 
a charming air." (Liberty) 

( 3 ) " 'I keep only one groom so I help to look after my ponies 
myself in the morning. I did not stop to take off my coat, because 


I was afraid I might miss you. Excuse.' He removed his duster 
solemnly. In his tweed coat and well-worn riding breeches, his cos- 
tume conformed to type." (Woman's Home Companion) 

(4) "He's a hotel aristocrat. You're a country gentlewoman. 
I'm so glad it's all over. How wise Dr. Fancher was not to announce 
the engagement." (Saturday Evening Post) 

(5) "Now for the problem of the Christmas gift, for, despite 
the pleasure we all must surely feel in giving gifts to our friends, 
the choosing of gifts is indeed a problem, and the problem lies 
mainly in avoiding the banal." (Harper's Bazaar) 

(6) "Those who are demanding 'contempora' are in a sense the 
patrons of modern design. Just as the Church was at one time, and 
the King at another." (Arts & Decoration) 


Before plunging into the jungle of our magazine sex fic- 
tion it will be necessary to establish certain points of refer- 

1. The biological norm of the sex relation tends to assert 
and re-assert itself against the religious and other taboos of 
the social environment, and against the limitations and frus- 
trations of the economic environment. In other words, the 
readers of the magazines are both biological and social animals 
who would doubtless like to be human, to live balanced, 
vigorous and creative sexual and social lives. 

2. Theoretically, the magazines, in so far as they deal 
with sex at all, are trying to instruct and aid their readers 
in solving their problems of sexual adjustment within the 
existing framework of the economy and of the mores. Since 
the writer of fiction or verse exhibits directly or indirectly 
a set of values, the verse and fiction writers are inevitably 
affecting, for good or ill, the values and attitudes of their 
readers in regard to sex. There are also the articles which deal 
with sex directly. 

Against this background, let us now attempt to describe 


what actually goes on in these magazines. The exploitation of 
the sexual dilemmas of the population by advertisers will 
be given consideration in the chapter on "Sacred and 
Profane Love." In the fictional and verse content of the 
popular magazines we have another, less direct form of ex- 
ploitation. We know who writes the advertisements and why. 
It is necessary now to ask: who writes the sex fiction and 

The first point to note is that very little of it is written 
by literary artists. There is a categorical difference between 
the equipment, attitude and purpose of the literary artist who 
deals with sex relations, and the equipment, attitude and 
purpose of the sex fictioneer. 

The work of the artist is a work of discovery, including 
self-discovery, and of statement. In the field of sex the mature 
artist exhibits neither timidity nor shame. True, the artist is 
often, like other human beings, the victim of biological or 
socially acquired defects, inhibitions and distortions, both 
physiological and psychological. Hence much genuine litera- 
ture in the field of sex must be characterized as in a sense 
compensatory writing. It would seem probable, for example, 
that practically all the work of D. H. Lawrence is of this 
nature, as well as some, at least, of the work of Walt Whit- 
man. But both these writers, being genuinely gifted artists, 
are concerned only with the presentation of the observed or 
intuitively perceived truth; they are concerned with dis- 
covery. They are serving no ulterior purposes, and are in one 
sense writing primarily for themselves. And being strong na- 
tures, they assert their own values, attitudes, judgments, for 
value judgments are implicit in the most "objective" writing. 

In contrast, the commercial sex fictioneer is primarily con- 
cerned, not with the discovery and statement of truth, but 
with the making of money. If, as ordinarily, his is a tenth 
rate talent, his maximum service lies in the telling of a tale; 
but in the telling he illuminates little or nothing. At his 

worst the sex fictioneer is merely commercializing an accepta- 
ble formula; he is "selling" the pseudoculture to itself; he does 
nothing creative with the current sexual fact or with the 
current sexual make-believe; he does not even achieve clear 

In this commercial sex fiction, the pattern is cut to the 
requirements of the editor, who specializes in calculating 
what can and cannot be said within the limits of a com- 
mercial enterprise designed to acquire or hold a certain class 
or mass circulation. It is a fairly complex calculation, and 
much study and experiment are required before the appren- 
tice sex fictioneer gets the editorial "slant" of a particular 

Of the thirteen magazines examined, True Story is the 
only one which definitely claims to offer sex instruction to 
its readers. 

"Until five years ago," said a full-page advertisement, . . . 
"there was nowhere men and women, boys and girls, could turn to 
to get a knowledge of the rules of life. . . . Then came True Story, 
a magazine that is different from any ever published. Its foundation 
is the solid rock of truth. ... It will help you, too. In five years 
it has reached the unheard-of circulation of two million copies 
monthly, and is read by five million or more appreciative men and 

While True Story is certainly a commercial enterprise, and 
while an unsympathetic commentator might well allege that 
it was specifically designed to exploit the postwar relaxation 
of the sexual mores, it is nevertheless true that True Story is 
immeasurably closer to reality than any of the other twelve 
magazines examined. This, in spite of the fact that most of 
its "true stories" give internal evidence of being fake stories, 
nine-tenths of which are written by formula and perhaps one- 
tenth by high school graduates eager to become writers. 

The distinction of True Story rests on the fact that it 


admits that sexual temptations sometimes occur and are some- 
times yielded to; also that it deals with matrimony rather than 
courtship. Its limitation is its virtuous surrender to the Puri- 
tan conviction that an extra-marital slip is a sin, inevitably 
followed by remorse and retribution. 

Of eleven stories and articles in the issue examined, six 
have sex for a major theme and five of these stories deal with 
matrimonial difficulties, i. e., sexual temptations not evaded. 
One must, of course, point out that no true description of the 
sexual behavior of the poor is to be derived from True Story, 
although there are scenes in which a married woman prepares 
the room for the reception of her lover and receives him. 
What true descriptions we have must be looked for in the 
work of such novelists as Edward Dahlberg, James T. Farrell, 
Erskine Caldwell and Morley Callaghan. The True Story 
formula, in its negative and positive aspects, runs somewhat 
as follows: sinner redeemed, sinner pays, sinner repents, saint 
sacrifices all; the beauty of duty, of security after a narrow 
escape from losing one's reputation and job; the beauty of 
being a true wife, the beauty of resignation, of truthfulness, 
and of character. 

After a particularly lurid escapade the True Story heroine 
is obliged to say something like this: "If every silly, senti- 
mental fool in this sad old world could have witnessed that 
scene, it would have done an enormous amount of good. 
Many a home would have been saved from ruin. They would 
have known the tempting Dead Sea fruit of illicit love for 
what it was, giving a bitter flavor to life for all who taste 

Obviously, the success of Mr. Macfadden's enterprise is 
based on the profitableness of bearing witness. 

An analysis of 45 sex stories from ten magazines, includ- 
ing True Story, yields much interesting material for specula- 
tion. But as regards the technique of sexual behavior the 
harvest is meagre indeed. We were able to discover only four 


items of premarital and two items of postmarital technique. 

Premarital technique: How a mother can recognize the 
first sign of love in her adolescent son (Woman's Home 
Companion). How to approach a virgin (Data in a number 
of stories, but all very meagre and questionable). How, if a 
girl is careful and smart she can take everything and give 
nothing (American Weekly) . Why an unmarried woman who 
wishes to seduce a youth should avoid tragic diversions such 
as those incident to the mistake of taking along her pet goat 
(Harper's Bazaar). 

Postmarital technique: How to commit bigamy. How to 
kill a drunken husband and thereby improve one's social 

In addition to the information about technique, the 45 sex 
stories present the following conclusions about sex, sex and 
economics, and morals: 

Men: "All men are pretty dumb and clumsy. There might 
be men somewhere who lived up to the things the poets, 
novelists and musicians said of men. If so, she had never 
met them." 

One man may be able to arouse a frigid woman, while 
another may not. 

A man will bet on his ability to pluck the bloom from a 
virgin, and then not want it. 

A genius is not bound by the moral code of Puritanism. 

Marriage: The sex revolution of the postwar era led to un- 

After "sleeping around," actually or mentally, a married 
couple's chance of happiness is with each other. 

Through reading light, trashy stuff a woman may lose her 

Sex and Economics: Millions cannot buy love. A mercenary 
woman cares more for her car than for her husband. A rich 


girl is smart if she marries a poor boy who has brains. Since 
a poor girl is often no good, it is safer to marry a rich girl. 
Morals: Virtue is more attractive than vice. An "indiscre- 
tion" can strip a woman of her good name, rob her of her 
freedom, and cost her every penny she has in the world. A 
common-law marriage may ruin a man's social position years 
later. A married couple should be an example to other mar- 
ried couples and to unmarried persons. 

These conclusions and the six technical points represent all 
that is to be gained from this magazine sex fiction. 

Of the 45 sex stories examined, only 13 were straight sex 
stories. The complications introduced in the remaining 32 are 
as follows: 

Thirteen: economics plus sex; eleven: romance plus sex; 
five: the American scene plus sex; two: the sex revolution; 
one: religion plus sex. 

It is worth noting that although complications due to inter- 
marriage of races and nationalities might be expected, prac- 
tically nothing of this sort was encountered. 

It should be emphasized that this magazine sex literature 
centers around women rather than around men. The problems 
of men are considered in only three of the 45 sex fiction 
stories. It is also significant that men outnumber women in 
the cast of characters; a surplusage of men is necessary prop- 
erly to dramatize the feminine dilemma. This surplusage of 
men is more pronounced as we ascend the class ladder. The 
woman of True Story hopes for no more than a single lover. 
The middle-class heroine must have at least the choice of two. 
The grande dame of Harper's Bazaar requires a circle of 
adoring youths with beautiful bodies, including at least one 

So frequently does the theme repeat itself in this magazine 
sex fiction that we feel warranted in saying that the dominant 
desire of the woman is to be freed from some situation in 
which she is bound or caught. But in only two instances out 


of the 45 (the sex revolution stories) does the heroine her- 
self initiate positive action toward such liberation. The most 
that the average heroine permits herself is to give some clue 
to her prospective liberator. Out of a wealth of data we sub- 
mit the following quotations which serve best to reveal the 
typical heroine's attitude: 

"Restlessness, dissatisfaction possessed her. She wanted more 
more, somehow, than life was giving her. Other women were 
happy sometimes such stupid, plain, elderly women were happy, 
but she was continually fretted and harassed by this sense of miss- 
ing something of being cheated." (Kathleen Norris. "Three Men 
and Diana." The American) 

"I had Wanted Out. Always I had Wanted Out. Yet whenever I 
had tried to find a door when I had taken some great risk, like 
marriage, in order to find the door I had failed. There had been 
no door. Then, suddenly, in some unexpected place the door would 
open!" (Elsie Robinson. "I Wanted Out." Cosmopolitan, April, 

All these fiction heroines want happiness, of course, but it 
is notable that they get happiness only in the romantic mo- 
ment which precedes marriage. Stories of happy married life 
are entirely lacking in the samples examined. Significant class 
differences characterize the behavior of these heroines. The 
extravagance of the rich woman in the matter of lovers has 
already been indicated. The shifting milieu of these stories 
would also seem to show a class difference. 

In Class "A" magazines the scene is always Europe, the 
Swiss Alps, Scotland, England, the Riviera. America is ignored 
geographically. In the Class "B" magazines the geography is 
mixed; Africa, London, the Oregon of the gold rush, a fresh 
water college town, New England, Chicago, New York and 
Hollywood. In the Class "C" magazines with only a few ex- 
ceptions the locale is America the poor don't travel. The 
typical scene is the country or small town, New England, 


Chicago, New York and Hollywood. It would appear that 
Hollywood is the Riviera of the proletarian as well as to a 
considerable extent the focus for the dreams of the middle- 
class woman. 

The following table indicates the range of fiction heroines 
encountered by class categories. Note that the typical rich 
heroine is mercenary, the typical middle-class heroine is an 
unawakened or unresponsive woman, and the typical poor 
heroine is sexually responsive as well as biologically more 
prolific. In magazine fiction as well as in life the poor woman 
has the largest number of babies. While the 41 fiction hero- 
ines of the middle-class produce only three children, the 
eleven fiction heroines of the poor produce nine children. 



Class "A" Magazines 51 per cent 

Class "B" Magazines 10 per cent 

Class "C" Magazines 10 per cent 


Class "B" Magazines 56 per cent 

Class "C" Magazines 45 per cent 

Class "A" Magazines 17 per cent 


Class "C** Magazines 45 per cent 

Class "B" Magazines 34 per cent 

Class "A" Magazines 17 per cent 

As to inter-class relationships the typical fictional device 
is the Cinderella theme, either straight, Poor Girl Marries 
Rich Man, or in reverse, Poor Boy Marries Rich Girl, the latter 
being apparently more popular. Proletarian characters are fre- 
quently encountered in Class "A" sex fiction. It would 

appear that the readers of the Class "A" magazines like to 
parasite emotionally upon the richer sexual life of the poor. 
The bulk of American magazines are read by the middle 
class, the $2,000 to $5,000 income group. In the case of ten 
magazines which we have selected as representative types, 5 1 
per cent of the circulation goes to the middle class. Twenty 
women's magazines, studied by Daniel Starch, show about the 
same percentage; 57 per cent of them have middle-class read- 
ers. The fact that the middle-class woman is the principal 
reader of mass and class circulation magazines is important to 
keep in mind in considering what we feel to be one of the 
significant findings of the study. The editor of the typical 
mass circulation magazine, usually a man, addresses himself 
primarily to the restless unhappy middle-class woman. The 
fiction exploits rather than resolves this unhappiness, just as 
the advertising exploits the emulative things-obsessed psy- 
chology of this woman, which it would seem arises chiefly 
from her sexual frustration. Here are two quotations which 
exhibit the condition of this middle-class woman. 

(1) "Quite suddenly, without warning, Diana realized that her 
marriage had been a losing fight. A mistake as far as her own 
interior happiness was concerned. . . . She could still go on gal- 
lantly picking strawberries, heating rolls, brewing coffee. But 
somehow the glamour, the excitement was gone. Neal seemed to be 
just a man, she just a woman, there seemed no particular reason for 
their being together." (Kathleen Norris. "Three Men and Diana/' 
American Magazine) 

(2) "The second period in a woman's life is when, after many 
strenuous years of adjustment toward husband and family, she 
feels entitled to let her own personality have full scope. She wants 
to forget as much as possible those difficult years, she wants to live 
her own life, to entertain her own friends in her own background. 
By this time plain Romeo has turned into Mr. Romeo Babbitt, but 
there is no Mrs. Babbitt. There is instead a gracious woman in the 
prime of life who has matured in excellence like old wine and the 


cask must be adequate." (Daisy Fellowes. "Home, Sweet Home." 
Harper's Bazaar) 

We have already noted the inverse ratio of sex deficiency 
and emulation. Material emulation and snobbism are appar- 
ently substitutes for sexual satisfaction. From the point of 
view of a commercial publisher interested in achieving a 
maximum "reader interest" for his advertisers the ideal sub- 
scriber to a middle-class woman's magazine is the woman 
who has never experienced the full physical and emotional 
satisfactions of sex; who is more or less secure in her eco- 
nomic position and who determinedly compensates her sexual 
frustration by becoming an ardent and responsive buyer. 

One of the most frequent charges leveled against Ameri- 
can culture is that it is woman-dominated. Women, it is said, 
read the books, attend the concerts and exhibitions, run the 
charities, figure increasingly in politics, etc. The inference is 
that our cultural deficiencies are caused by this domination of 
the woman, for which various explanations have been of- 

Our examination of the magazine literature leads us to 
question the accuracy of this picture. Is it women who have 
created this ad-man's pseudoculture? Is it women who own 
and direct these commercial enterprises of mass publications? 
No, it is predominantly men. It may also be alleged that it is 
the stupidity of men which is largely responsible for the 
sexual and emotional frustration of the typical middle -class 
woman. The result of the middle-class woman's physical or 
emotional frustration is not that she compensates by achieving 
a culture superior to that of the man. A much truer state- 
ment would be that the exploitation of the dilemma of these 
women by men has helped to bring about the collapse of 
culture in the United States. It is significant to note in this 
connection that it is precisely in the women's magazines that 
sophistication tends to disappear. Of the five women's maga- 

zines examined, four devoted less than three per cent of their 
article and editorial space to sophistication. 

In summarizing the sex content of the magazines it is 
sufficient merely to note that it is almost incredibly thin and 
vapid, useless as instruction, and deficient in thrills. 


In the thirteen magazines examined, we find God men- 
tioned once in a fiction story and twice in poems. Art is men- 
tioned only by Arts & Decoration. Science, which gets full 
if crude treatment in Hearst's American Weekly, is en- 
countered in only one other magazine, Liberty, which con- 
tains a story by Edgar Rice Burroughs, "Tarzan and the 
Lion Man," in which the author has a paragraph or two 
about the imaginary genesis of his hybrid. 


Of the four criteria for sophistication referred to in earlier 
chapters only one, the treatment of the depression, proved to 
be important in quantity or revealing in content. Photo- 
play, Arts & Decoration and Harper's Bazaar do not mention 
the depression at all. The negative response to the depression 
takes the form of a repudiation of the acquisitive culture and 
a turning back in time to the older American virtues and 
the older American pattern of life. 

(i) "Looking back [to the days when her husband, now a 
farm-hand, had an $8,000 a year salary] it seems as if we never 
found anything very very real to quarrel about. And the queer 
thing is I know we were both rather clever then. We weren't 
stupefied with work, the way we are now. I suppose that must be 
the answer. If I weren't too tired to think clearly, I'd be able to 
see some sense to it. It actually seems as if there were more dullness 
and stupidity in those smart squabbles about books and plays and 


clothes and places to eat than there is in sitting here like dumb 
animals, too tired to talk, contented because we're warm, and fed, 
and alive." 

(Hugh McNair Kahler, "Winter Harvest." Saturday Evening 

(2) "Jonathan could not understand his sister's passionate loyalty 
to the old house. He worshipped the modern, the technical, the 
efficient. It was this that had made him persuade his brother to 
abandon the leather factory, with its century-old reputation for 
honesty and fair dealing and follow the will-o'-the-wisp of fortune 
with the vacuum cleaners. Their story was the story of dozens of 
small industries. 

" 'Listen to me, Jonathan/ said Charlotte coldly, 'I want to 
read you a few lines from this book.' She read, her voice trembling 
with the intensity of her feeling: 

!t 'Never the running stag, the gull at wing, 
The pure elixir, the American Thing. . . .' 

" 'It's that "The American Thing" we've got away from it, 
from everything we stood for. And now we're going back to it. 
. . . Look at the farmers. They've got food they can't sell but 
no money. We'll take their leather goods in exchange for food and 
hides.' . . . 

" 'But that's barter,' Jonathan gasped. 

" 'Savagery.' 

"Bartlett looked at her steadily. . . . 'Barter,' he said, at length 
'Ancient as the hills and modern as tomorrow'." (Francis Sill Wick- 
ware. "The American Thing." Woman's Home Companion.) 

In considering the positive response to the depression a 
brief summary of the essential characteristics of these class 
cultures will be useful. In magazines read by the poor, fear 
and sex are dominant and emulation is negligible. The middle- 
class are immunized against fear, exhibit a definite sex de- 
ficiency and are strong in emulation: they are the climbers. 
In magazines going to the rich, fear reappears, and sex is 
exploited chiefly for its mercenary or amusement value. Since 
these magazines primarily exploit the climbing nouveau riche, 


emulation is very strong and is reinforced by a tremendous 
preoccupation with "things." An example of the mercenary 
characteristic of the rich as exhibited in the high income maga- 
zines is the following: 

" 'My dear Mr. Sherrard,' he said, 'as a man of the world, you 
will at once comprehend the situation. My wife and I are devoted 
to each other; unfortunately, we have no money. Not-a-single-sou.' 
He paused to let this sink in, then continued blandly as before. 'Our 
tastes are what might be described as traditionally extravagant. We 
can't help it, we inherit them from our ancestors. Together, our life, 
save for a few moments of bliss, is impossible. Apart, we simply 
cannot prevent I repeat, cannot prevent money coming to us ir 
large quantities. It is odd.' 

* 'Very,' agreed Sherrard. 

" 'I know what you are thinking: that it would be more nc 
starve than acquire such money. But then we are not noble- 
that way'." (Margery Sharp. "Immoral Story." Harper's 

Where, in a transitional period, do the readers Ox 
magazines think they are going? Before attempting to answc 
this question, it is worth noting that the letters from readers 
warrant the belief that the readers are going somewhere much 
faster than the editors would like. 

The American Magazine represents the lower middle-class 
male; the Saturday Evening Post, the upper middle-class male; 
Nation's Business, the rich. How do the men of these different 
classes regard the future of business and of government? The 
American Magazine is behind the New Deal sturdily and 
optimistically. None the less, in a pinch it is clear that the 
typical American Magazine reader would go fascist. This is 
revealed by the general direction of the articles and by readers' 
letters. The Saturday Evening Post is belligerent and not 
frightened. The creed of the Post is to repel every invasion 
of business by the government. It professes to believe that 


business is capable of running the country without govern- 
ment aid. Whenever this illusion breaks down the magazine 
alertly serves its readers by offering optimistic adaptations to 
the necessities of the moment. The Post's high point of sophis- 
tication is registered in the following quotation which is the 
concluding paragraph of an article by Caret Garrett entitled 
"Washington Miscellany." 

"The law of necessity hitherto acting [before the Roosevelt 
Administration] was a law of nightmare. For that it is proposed 
to substitute a law of the disciplined event. To say this has never 
happened is not to say it cannot happen. But certainly it was by 
the other way that the world grew as rich as it is, which is richer 
than it ever was before." 

The Nation's Business is too near, perhaps, to the seats of 
power not to have looked over the edge of the precipice and 
to have become doubtful. "Capital is Scared," it headlines, 
and in recording the timidity of investors remarks: "In other 
words they wonder whether or not the days of private capi- 
talism are numbered." Curiously the editor of Nation's Busi- 
ness seems to be less confident that Fascism is our next phase 
than are the editors of the Communist Daily Worker. In 
reading the articles and editorials of Nation's Business one gets 
the impression that these frightened business men of Wall 
Street, and of the provincial chambers of commerce, would 
not be surprised if they awoke tomorrow morning to find the 
revolution on their doorsteps. 

With regard to the poor, our magazine indices are True 
Story and the famous Vox Pop of Liberty. It seems clear that 
Liberty readers comprise a high percentage of war generation 
males, especially Legionnaires. Their notion of a revolution 
would appear to be a miraculous change of political adminis- 
tration whereby suddenly everybody would get $5,000 a year. 
In the lack of such miracles they advocate homespun nostrums 


like the scrapping of machines, going back to the land, etc. 
While it is clear that the readers of Liberty are not sophisti- 
cated radicals, labor legislation, technological unemployment, 
and the revolution get mentioned in the Vox Pop pages. 
Whether the Liberty readers go fascist or communist would 
appear to depend upon the energy and astuteness which one or 
the other party manifests in proselytizing and mobilizing 

True Story is a mine of sophistication data regarding the 
poor. The editors write about the family problems created 
by the depression and invite contributions on the subject 
from their readers, but the absorption with these problems 
is clearly evident in the fiction as well. To the poor, poverty 
is a perpetual problem, in good as well as in bad times. It is 
the unique distinction of True Story among the magazines 
examined that it is the only one which contains stories about 
the poor. Despite the fakery which is apparent in much of 
this fiction, there is also much genuinely revealing stuff. In 
the issue examined, four of the nine fiction stories deal with 
the working class and two deal with the very poor. 

As already noted, the fiction writers for True Story recog- 
nize that the way out for the poor is crime. In the following 
quotation there is presented a typical white-collar depression 
dilemma. The story concerns a burdened father who, unwill- 
ing to seek the way out through crime, kills himself in such 
a way that his family may collect the insurance and pay their 

" 'You know, Lois, the rottenest part of it all is Dad,' he said 
slowly. . . . "Dad hasn't had much out of life. Mother's a swell 
person in her way, but she's certainly made his life miserable. He's 
crazy about us about all his kids but we've cost him an awful lot 
and I don't think we've given him much in return. When I look at 
Dad and think of all the years he's striven beyond his strength, of 
all the things he's gone without to give us things of how little he's 


had out of life, I get sick inside. He's a man made for cheerfulness, 
and freedom and happy-go-lucky ways. And he's been harnessed to 
routine and duties and schedules all his life. And for what? He's 
ended in disgrace and failure. No matter what we think and we 
don't think he's a disgrace and a failure that's what it boils down 
to in the eyes of the world. 

" 'A letter from Papa a letter. . . . He's going to commit 
suicide. . . . He's doing it for us. ... You can see for yourself. 
He thinks he's no good, and that he'll never land another job at his 
age. He wants to leave us his insurance. He knows that'll wipe out 
every debt we have and start us fresh. It's all he has to give and 
he's willing'." 

("Desperate Days." True Story.) 

The alternative to crime as a way out would appear to be 
suicide. But what happens when the poor do essay crime as a 
way out of their dilemmas? The following quotation is taken 
from a story dealing with the very poor. 

"It was the first motion picture I had ever seen, despite the fact 
that our little hamlet had boasted two shows weekly for many years. 
. . . We walked ten miles to the next town. . . . Jimmie's pockets 
were bulging with the life savings of his aunt, while he let me 
believe the money was rightfully his. ... In my talks with Jimmie, 
I came to see a change in him. He laughed about the decencies of 
life, about the people who worked hard for their bread, about the 
poor people who stood for oppression from the rich. . . . The well 
defined line between right and wrong seemed to grow fainter as 
the days passed. Sometimes I thought Jimmie was right about the 
unfairness of things and our privilege to make up for it outside 
the law. . . . 

"Jimmie was sentenced first, and taken to prison several days be- 
fore my sentence was fixed. As he passed the women's cells, I could 
hear him singing 'Let the Rest of the World Go By.' He was trying 
to be a good sport. . . . Club women called on me and tried in 
their mechanical way to preach morals to me. Their visits served 
only to antagonize me. All the time they were talking, my heart 


cried out 'But you've had a chance in life. You had love and home 
and friends. I didn't want to steal. Jimmie was sick, and I was scared 
he'd die, if I didn't help him get the stuff.' My lips did not form the 
words. In fact I hardly spoke to them at all. I scowled my hatred at 
them, and saved my tears for my pillowless bunk." 
("His Mother's Confession." True Story.) 

The conclusion indicates that crime, that is theft, is no way 
out after all since the wages of crime is jail. It is estimated 
that the poor, that is to say, those having less than $2,000 a 
year, constitute over 75 per cent of the total population. 
Where are they going in this transitional period? It seems clear 
that a considerable percentage of the readers of True Story 
are desperate and cynical about the possibility of escape from 
their dilemmas by any other route than the crime route. 
Clearly that route is being increasingly followed as Abraham 
Epstein notes in "Insecurity, A Challenge to America," when 
he points out that since the depression the total value of 
insurances policies lapsed for inability to pay amounts to 
$3,000,000,000, and that the prisoners admitted to Sing Sing 
for robbery have increased by 70 per cent. It would seem 
apparent that here we have a nexus of potential revolutionary 
material, inert at the moment, but capable of mobilization 
by an able revolutionary leader who could show a practical 
way out, other than the way of crime. 

Recently in talking to a group of business men who were 
re-focusing their advertising expenditures upon the narrowing 
sector of the population which represents any exploitable buy- 
ing power, I raised the question as to what business intended 
doing with these extra-economic men. The answer was 
"Nothing." The assumption so far as I could gather seemed 
to be that the surplusage of the population would starve peace- 
ably and eliminate itself. I recommended the reading of True 
Story to these bemused plutocrats. It seems very clear that the 
readers of True Story will not starve peaceably. 


Here then we have the spectrum of the ad-man's pseudo- 
culture as revealed by its mass and class magazine literature. 

Is it desirable to rehabilitate this ad-man's pseudoculture? 
The question is somewhat beside the point since history does 
not evolve by a series of moral or esthetic choices. A culture 
is rejected, not because it is ugly and unjust, but because it is 
not viable. The more pertinent question, therefore, is: "Is it 
possible to rehabilitate this pseudoculture?" The answer here 
is the same answer which must be given to the question: "Is it 
possible to rehabilitate the capitalist economy?" The capitalist 
economy can survive as long as it can validate its rising mound 
of paper titles to ownership and income by the enslavement 
of labor and by progressive imperial conquests. The capitalist 
culture the ad-man's pseudoculture can survive as long as 
it can give some substance to the traditional concept of indi- 
vidual opportunity; the ability of the able individual to rise 
out of his class. The economy and the culture are Siamese 
Twins; or rather, they are aspects of the same thing. Examina- 
tion of this magazine literature reveals clearly that the demo- 
cratic dogma is dying if not already dead; that the emulative 
culture is not accessible to the poor and to the lower middle- 
class; that the poor are oriented toward crime, and potentially 
at least, toward revolution; that the middle classes are oriented 
toward fascism. In short, the ad-man's pseudoculture is not 
satisfying. To be effectively exploited it must be diluted with 
elements derived from the older culture and with some meas- 
ure of sophistication and service, particularly with respect to 
the lower income groups. Its decadence parallels rather strictly 
the decadence of the capitalist economy. Historically, the 
ad-man's pseudoculture will probably be regarded as a very 
frail and ephemeral thing. 

We must therefore conclude that this culture, or pseudo- 
culture, is not viable, hence cannot be rehabilitated. This 
conclusion will be regarded as optimistic, or pessimistic, de- 
pending upon the point of view of the reader. 





ASK a child who is just beginning to read: "What is a news- 
paper? What is a magazine?" He will speak of news and 
fiction and advertising as integral parts of the same thing. 
Explain and argue as much as you like, you will not be able 
to disturb his primitive conviction that the advertising is not 
just as much a part of the paper as the news, and that, if the 
thing is to make sense, it has to make sense as a unit. Tell him 
that the news and editorials represent one thing, one respon- 
sibility, one ethic, one function, one purpose; that the adver- 
tising represents another thing, another responsibility, an- 
other purpose. He nods vaguely and gives it up. 

In other words, the child's instinct leads him to precisely 
the same conclusion as that set forth and documented in the 
preceding study of the magazines. 

Advertising, in the broadest sense of the word, is as old as 
trade. The definition offered by Frank Presbrey in his "His- 
tory and Development of Advertising would seem to be 
sufficiently broad and accurate. To quote it again: "Adver- 
tising is printed, written, or graphic salesmanship deriving 
from oral salesmanship." The modern spread and intensified 
use of the instrument in America is made possible by our 
almost universal literacy. But ancient graphic and written 
advertising exhibits a functional relationship to the then 
current nexus of economic and social fact which is strikingly 
similar to the contemporary set-up. 

The Babylonian temples were built of sun-baked bricks. 
Each brick was stamped with the name of the temple and the 
name of the king who built it. The temples were advertising, 
just as the Woolworth and Chrysler Buildings are adver- 
tising. There is even some justice in Presbrey's observation 
that these temples represented "an institutional campaign con- 
ducted by the kings in behalf of themselves and their dynas- 

The Rosetta Stone is a eulogy of Ptolemy Epiphanes, dating 
from 156 B.C., in three languages: Coptic, hieroglyphs and 
Greek. It was erected by the local priests in gratitude for a 
remission of taxes. The priests were, in effect, the local satraps 
of Ptolemy and the Rosetta Stone was functional with respect 
to the discharge of their responsibility. It was necessary to 
"sell" Ptolemy to the people, and probably the priests acted 
at the suggestion, certainly with the approval of their over- 

When President Roosevelt was inaugurated he proceeded 
more directly. Using the modern instrumentality of the radio, 
he sold the American people on the closing of the banks and 
the incidental wiping out of perhaps $6,000,000,000 of their 
savings. The priests the radio broadcasters contributed 
free time, and the other priests the newspapers contributed 
enthusiastic approval and applause. With the evidence of this 
and later triumphs of government-as-advertising before us,, 
those primitive Babylonian practitioners seem hopelessly out- 

Since literacy was the privilege of a minority, the Baby- 
lonian tradesmen used barkers and symbols. Later, inscrip- 
tions were employed. Lead sheets found in ancient Greek 
temples affirmed the rights of property by cursing the 
sacrilegious people who did not return lost articles to their 
owners. In ancient Greece the arts of elocution and music 
were functional with respect to trade; the Greek auctioneer 


was an elocutionist and was usually accompanied by a mu- 

The word "libel" is Latin. In ancient Rome a libel was a 
public denouncement of an absconding debtor. 

It seems probable that advertising was more or less profes- 
sionalized in very ancient times. For example there is some 
reason for believing that the walls of ancient Pompeii may 
have been controlled by a commercial contractor. Early post- 
ers were inscriptions announcing theatrical performances and 
sports, and commending the facilities of commercial baths. 
Presbrey renders one such advertisement as follows: "The 
troop of gladiators of the sedil will fight on the 3ist of May. 
There will be fights with wild animals, and an awning to 
keep out the sun." 

With the break-up of the Roman Empire, advertising shared 
the general obscuration of the middle ages. Says Presbrey, 
"For nearly a thousand years, following the decline of Rome, 
advertising made no progress. Instead, it went backward, 
following the retreating steps of civilization." 

When the profession re-emerges, it is under the changed 
conditions of the medieval church-state. A decree of Philip 
Augustus in 1280 proclaims: 

"Whosoever is a crier in Paris may go to any tavern he 
likes and cry its wine, provided they sell wine from the wood 
and there is no other crier provided for that tavern; and the 
tavern keeper cannot prohibit him. If a crier finds people 
drinking in a tavern he may ask what they pay for the wine 
they drink; and he may go out and cry the wine at the prices 
they pay, whether the tavern keeper wishes it or not, provided 
always that there be no other crier employed for that tavern." 

The "just price" for which the crier served was four 
dinarii a day. It was further provided that if the tavern 
keeper closed his door against the crier, the latter might cry 
wine at the price of the king's wine, and claim his fee. 

Perhaps the last proviso gives a clue to the motivation of 

Philip Augustus' proclamation. The king was in the wine busi- 
ness, too, and was accordingly interested in the education and 
expansion of the market. The king's wine was to be sold at 
a given price, which provided a measuring stick for competi- 
tion and was doubtless a factor in price maintenance. 

As one might expect, the re-birth of advertising coincides 
with the expansion of trade in Western Europe made possible 
by the suppression of piracy and banditry by the Hanseatic 
League. In the sixteenth century the chief form of advertising 
was the poster. It was called a si-quis (if anybody), the der- 
ivation being from the Roman lost article posters. Most 
si-quis were want advertisements. The chief billboard in Lon- 
don was St. Paul's Cathedral, which was crowded with 
lawyers, seamstresses, etc., seeking clients. Like the modern 
office building or railroad terminal the sixteenth-century 
church also contained tobacco shops and bookstalls. Tobacco, 
coffee and books were among the first products advertised. 
It is in connection with the exploitation of literature by ad- 
vertising that one encounters, with a glow of pleasure, no 
less a person than Ben Jonson, in his usual role of objector 
and satirist. 

In Every Man out of his Humor, one of the characters is 
Shift, who haunts St. Paul's "for the advancement of a si-quis 
or two, wherein he hath so varied himself that if any of them 
take he may hull himself up and down in the humorous world 
a little longer." By 1600 handbills and placards in behalf of 
books became so common that Jonson enjoined his bookseller 
to use his works for wrapping paper rather than promote 
them by the sensational methods then in use. 

The objection is particularly interesting as coming from 
Jonson, who, although he had been successively a bricklayer, 
a soldier and a playwright, was by nature a scholar-poet, and 
an intellectual aristocrat. He probably felt, like the modern 
historians Morrison and Commager, that advertising had al- 
ready "elevated mendacity to the status of a profession." He 


tolerated the noble patrons to whom he dedicated his works 
because they helped to support him; but he clearly despised 
the "new people," the middle-class business men, who, having 
tasted the sweets of profit in the expanding market, were 
marshaling their forces for the later conquests of manufac- 
turing and commerce. 

Art was conscripted into the service of trade when Hogarth 
was employed at making inn signs and illustrating handbills 
for tradesmen, including one advertising himself as an en- 
graver and another for his sisters, who were designers of 

By the end of the seventeenth century the apparatus of 
poster and handbill advertising was functioning at full blast 
within the limits set by the still primitive facilities of trans- 
port and communication. Practically all the stigmata of the 
modern practice of advertising were present. The greed and 
social irresponsibility of the advertiser expressed itself in 
sweeping claims and cheerful misrepresentation; his tasteless- 
ness in bad art and worse English. The seventeenth century 
trader was a go-getting fellow a low fellow coming up, with 
nothing to lose in the matter* of social status and a world of 
profit to gain. The nobility and the princes of the church 
denounced him; city ordinances were passed in London threat- 
ening with severe penalties tradesmen who were so immodest 
as to advertise the prices of their wares. But the advertiser 
met scorn with scorn and drove the logic of his acquisitive 
opportunity always harder and higher. A French visitor to 
London in the middle of the eighteenth century comments on 
the huge and ridiculous ornamentation of the shop signs, As 
some of the early prints made us realize, the streets of seven- 
teenth century London were scarcely less vulgar and com- 
mercial than the Great White Way of modern New York. 

Business, however, still lacked its major tool, the press. It 
is upon the evolution of this instrument that we must now 
concentrate our attention. 

It cannot be too strongly emphasized that the press begins 
and ends as an instrument of government, whether official 
or unofficial, actual, or potential and aspiring. What it is today 
it was in its earliest beginnings. The invention of printing 
approximately coincided with the early struggles for power 
of the rising middle class. In this long chess game, with its 
shifting alliances, its victories, defeats and drawn battles and 
its unstable truces, the press is the queen without whose sup- 
port the king, the official ruler, is helpless: a most bawdy, 
promiscuous and treacherous queen, whose power is today 
threatened by a new backstairs mistress, the radio. The press 
has played virtuous, even heroic roles in the past, and still 
does. But on the whole, she is like Archibald MacLeish's poet 
in his Invocation to the Social Muse: She sleeps in both camps 
and is faithful to neither. 

Although the press is and always was an instrument of 
government, it is even more important to point out that the 
press came to birth as an instrument of trade, which was 
aspiring to be government. From her earliest memory the 
infant Messalina was rocked in the cradle of business. 

In 1594 the French philosopher Montaigne published an 
essay entitled Of a Defect in our Policies in which he urged 
the establishment of exchanges for tradesmen and buyers. 
As a result a "Bureau D'Affiches" was established in Paris. 
It functioned for only a brief period and was followed by a 
quite obvious technical advance, the publication of a Journal 
D'Affiches (Journal of Public Notices) which is said to be 
the first periodical in the history of Western Europe. The 
first issue appeared Oct. 14, 1612. It was a want-ad medium, 
no more and no less newspaper of, by and for trade, and 
this it has continued to be for more than 300 years. It is now 
called Les Petites Affiches, and is still a periodical of want-ads 
and public notices. An humble and virtuous creature, Les 
Petites Affiches the Martha of newspaperdom. Let us keep 
her in mind when we come to study the careers of her suc- 


cessors and rivals, the Marys, Ninons, Carmens and Messalinas 
who have relegated her to her present comfortable and re- 
spectable bourgeois obscurity. 

Trade, then, was news, and trade plus printer's ink became 
advertising, but still news. Abortive public registers were 
chartered by James I and Charles I in England. Henry Walker 
published his Perfect Occurences in 1649 this being a house 
organ for his Public Register or Enterance. But government 
was jealous of the emergent fourth estate. Perfect Occurences 
was suppressed in 1650 and Walker's Public Registry, being 
deprived of advertising, soon died. 

But the forces of the trading class, with God, as usual, 
conscripted under their banner, were marching toward the 
conquest of power. In 1657 Marchmont Needham, Crom- 
well's official journalist, was publishing the bi-weekly Mer- 
curius Politicus and Publick Intelligencer. He established 
eight offices of "public advice" in London and in 1657 ob- 
tained permission from Cromwell to issue, in addition to the 
news letter, a weekly sheet called the Publick Adviser. All the 
advertisements, then called "advices," were of the same size. 
The fees were four shillings for a workman, five for a book- 
seller and ten for a physician. Needham had a monopoly 
advantage and used it ruthlessly. When, a little later, he raised 
his prices, the indignant tradesmen denounced him as "The 
Devil's Half -Crown Newsmonger." 

Since the news letter was a medium for the literate ex- 
clusively, it was natural that booksellers were among the 
earliest advertisers. But the medicine man and the realtor 
were also early on the scene. Since the mass market for food 
and clothing was not yet literate, such advertisers do not ap- 
pear until later. At this point it is merely important to note 
that trade, for its full development, required universal lit- 
eracy, and that the later use of public funds for school pur- 
poses was conceivably motivated less by idealistic considera- 
tions than by the needs of trade. 


Cromwell's Ironsides were business men out for power and 
marching under the banner of God. They needed spiritual 
food, and when Cromwell marched into Scotland, a news- 
book was published for distribution to his army of "Saints." 
Here are some specimen titles of the books advertised in that 
publication, all of them obviously good selling copy for the 
Puritan conquest of power, just as, nearly three centuries 
later, Bruce Barton's Man Nobody Knows became the bible 
of our modern Rotarian saints, marching under the banner 
of "Service": 

Hooks and eyes for Believers Breeches 

A Most Delectable Sweet Perfumed nosegay for God's 

saints to smell at. 

The spiritual Mustard pot to make the Soul Sneeze with 


Upon the restoration in 1 660 Charles II quickly put a stop 
to that. He recognized the growing power of the press by 
suppressing it. Instead, a two-page publication was issued 
called the London Gazette. It refused to carry advertising on 
the ground that commercial announcement had no place in 
a "paper of intelligence," that is to say, a newspaper which 
presented non-commercial news. As a matter of fact the Lon- 
don Gazette was an official government newspaper and is still 
published as such. Later in the reign of Charles II it did pub- 
lish advertisements, but in a separate sheet. The monarchy 
continued to regard the press as a government function and 
privilege. In 1665 Roger L 'Estrange was given a patent as 
"Surveyor of the Press" which included the exclusive priv- 
ilege of "writing, printing and publishing advertisements." 

The amiable monarch was not averse to making a little 
money out of trade, although he doubtless considered the up- 
start tradesmen as permanently objectionable. The poet, 
Fleetwood Sheppard, who was one of his favorites, doubtless 


expressed the royal view when he wrote the following criticism 
of current advertising practice: 

They [the current newsbooks of the year 1657 when this was 
written] have now found out another quaint device in their trading. 
There is never a mountebank who either by professing of chemistry 
of any other art drains money from the people of the nation but 
these arch-cheats must have a share in the booty, and besides filling 
up his paper, which he knew not how to do otherwise, he must 
have a feeling to authorize the charlatan forsooth, by putting him 
into the newsbook. 

Yet Charles II himself, shortly after his accession, was 
obliged to turn advertiser, as witness the following plaintive 
appeal to his rascally subjects: 

We must call on you again for a Black Dog between the grey- 
hound and a spaniel, no white about him only a streak on his breast, 
and tayl a little bobbed. It is His Majestie's own dog, and doubtless 
was stolen. Whoever finds him may acquaint any at Whitehall, for 
the dog was better known at Court than those who stole him. Will 
they never leave robbing His Majesty? Must he not keep a dog? 

By the middle of the eighteenth century a considerable 
press, whose principal support derived from advertising, was 
established in England and on the continent. The essence of 
the modern phenomenon had been achieved and its essence 
was clearly recognized by contemporary commentators. We 
may therefore conclude this outline of the early history of 
advertising with the following quotation from Dr. Samuel 
Johnson, writing in the Idler in the year 1759: 

Advertisements are now so numerous that they are very negli- 
gently perused, and it is therefore become necessary to gain atten- 
tion by magnificence of promises and by eloquence sometimes 
sublime and sometimes pathetic. Promise, large promise, is the soul 


of an advertisement [Promise them everything and blow hard, said 
my early tutor, the sea lion]. The true pathos of advertisements 
must have sunk deep into the heart of every man that remembers 
the zeal shown by the seller of the anodyne necklace, for the ease 
and safety of the poor toothing infants and the affection with which 
he warned every mother that she would never forgive herself if her 
infant should perish without a necklace. . . . The trade of adver- 
tising is now so near to perfection that it is not easy to propose 
any improvement. But as every art ought to be exercised in true 
subordination to the public good, I cannot but propose it as a moral 
question to these masters of the public ear, whether they do not 
sometimes play too wantonly with our passions. 

Dr. Johnson wrote as a good liberal of his period and his 
phrases have a familiar ring. He might almost have been 
reviewing a volume by Stuart Chase or applauding the de- 
mand of Messrs. Schlink and Kallet for a new law to restrain 
the iniquities and hypocrisies of advertising. In justice to 
these writers one must acknowledge both the value of their 
exposures and the even more significant fact that all three 
have moved steadily leftward in their political orientation. 

What the good doctor did not see and contemporary 
liberals seem scarcely more acute was that, given a literate 
population, the press becomes one of the instruments of gov- 
ernment; that if the press is financed by the vested property 
interests of business, then in the end business becomes govern- 
ment. Finally, the good doctor should have realized the futility 
of introducing moral and ethical values into a trade relation- 
ship. The concepts of "good" and "bad" suffer a sea change 
in this relationship; good advertising is advertising which 
makes profits and bad advertising is advertising which does 
not make profits. Neither the "regulative" attempts of gov- 
ernment nor the idealistic campaigns of reformers in and out 
of advertising will seriously affect the economic determinants 
which operate in this relationship. At least they haven't for 
over three hundred years. 


Dr. Johnson felt that the art of advertising had reached 
approximate perfection in the middle of the eighteenth cen- 
tury. In a sense he was right. The archetypes of contemporary 
technical practice are almost all to be found in the newspaper 
and handbill advertising of that period. The later develop- 
ments have been chiefly those of speed and spread, with, 
however, this qualification: these developments have brought 
into being a series of interlocking vested interests, which, 
while entailed effects of the underlying economic process, have 
also come to function as important causes, influencing and 
even determining to a considerable extent the subsequent 
evolution of our civilization. 

The point of view adhered to in this book is that of regard- 
ing the instruments of social communication as instruments 
of rule, of government. In this view the people who control 
and manage our daily and periodical press, radio, etc., become 
a sort of administrative bureaucracy acting in behalf of the 
vested interests of business. But every bureaucracy becomes 
itself a vested interest; it develops its own will to expansion 
and power. Bureaucracies are likely to be what governments 
die of. In Russia a bureaucracy was set up, theoretically, to 
solve the tasks of socialist construction, and gradually, with 
the coming to birth of the classless society and the elimination 
of the conflicts which the state power must adjust or sup- 
press, to "wither away." The Russians are frank in confessing 
that they are obliged to fight the tendency of their bureau- 
cracy to propagate itself verdantly. This struggle in fact has 
been and is one of the most difficult tasks of the socialist 

In the following chapter we shall consider two other in- 
struments of rule, namely education and propaganda, and 
show how the use of these instruments is frequently combined 
with the use of advertising. 




Advertising, Propaganda, Education 

MODERN advertising reaches its highest expression in the 
United States and under the political and social forms of our 
democratic institutions and concepts: a free press, popular 
education, representative government. It is important to note 
that the contemporary phenomenon is an aspect of our so- 
called "surplus economy," as is revealed by the use of the 
phrase "sales resistance" in current advertising parlance. 
"Sales resistance" means an impedance of the distributive 
function. It implies a lack of spontaneous demand for the 
product or service which may be caused, 

(1) By the inferiority of the product as to quality or 
price with respect to competing products. 

(2) By the inertia of established buying patterns in the 
market at which the product is aimed. 

(3) By the inter-industrial competition, as for example, 
brick against lumber or meat against cheese. 

(4) By the inadequacy of the class or mass buying power 
with respect to the volume and price of commodities and 
services offered on the market. 

Although existing buying power is ultimately determina- 
tive, it is possible to manipulate consumer preferences and 
the division of the consumer's dollar within this iron limit. 
In other words the market can be "educated" or propa- 
gandized as you choose to put it, just as it can be partially 
or wholly monopolized and the controls established with re- 


spect to volume of production, distribution and price. These 
are, perhaps, the two major factors in the obsolescence of the 
"law" of supply and demand. 

The education, or manipulation of the market may pro- 
ceed directly through the advertising of the product by the 
manufacturer or by a group of manufacturers organized as 
a trade association; through unsigned publicity prepared and 
issued by the manufacturer or his agent; through the more 
or less influenced or coerced "co-operation" of the daily or 
periodical press, radio and cinema; even through similar in- 
fluences or coercions focused upon our institutions of formal 
education. Sometimes all four methods are used. A few typical 
examples will illustrate the nature of the process, its detailed 
exposition being left for other chapters. 

It happens that a single manufacturer dominates the mar- 
ket for automobile tire valves, caps and gauges. He stands 
to profit, therefore, by any expansion of this market. Hence 
his advertising has tended to be primarily "educational"; 
that is to say, it tells motorists that proper inflation adds to 
the durability of tires, that improper inflation is dangerous; 
that the air pressure in tires should be frequently tested, 
hence the motorist should own his own gauge; that the valves 
require more or less frequent replacement. 

Note that all this "education" is sound enough on the 
whole and in the consumer's interest as well as that of the 
manufacturer and distributor. Such education, or promotion, 
can be achieved more economically, on the whole, by publicity 
than by advertising, since the publicizing of the manufac- 
turer's name and the brand name of his product, is, while 
desirable in view of actual or latent competition, not essential. 

Many newspapers and magazines carry columns of advice 
to motorists; the editors of these automobile sections and 
pages can readily be persuaded to publish small items urging 
motorists to keep the tires of their cars properly inflated; 
especially if the manufacturer or his agent does the whole 

column in which the advice about tires is mixed with other 
standard bits of information and warning. This relieves the 
newspaper or magazine staff of labor and expenditure; some- 
times a staff member, or a journalist having working rela- 
tions with several publications, is induced to do the job for 
a fee paid by the manufacturer, and then see that the "edu- 
cation" or promotion is duly published. But such arrange- 
ments are precarious unless the newspaper or magazine gets 
some quid pro quo. Hence an educational publicity campaign 
of this kind is usually correlated with a minimum expendi- 
ture for paid advertising. 

There is nothing unusual about such procedures, nor is any 
violation of the current business code involved. True, the 
technique requires the application of interested economic 
pressures. But so does the technique of security promotion 
represented by the Morgan preferred list. In so far as moral 
or ethical judgments are applicable to such procedures it 
would seem futile to apply them to the individuals involved; 
rather, they should be directed, not merely against the exist- 
ing business code, but against the system under which such 
codes naturally develop. 

Another example. General Motors sells automobiles and 
advertises them in the Saturday Evening Post, which is one 
of the reasons why the Post can pay high prices for articles 
and fiction and yet sell for a nickel. But the fact that Gen- 
eral Motors and other automobile manufacturers advertise 
in the Saturday Evening Post also serves to explain certain 
elements in the editorial content of the magazine. The Post 
by reason of its advertising lineage becomes an important 
and profitable business property, one of a group of business 
properties. Hence the editorial policy of the Post is inevitably 
conservative in its policies. With equal inevitability its edi- 
torial management is favorably disposed toward the specific 
interests of its advertisers. The Post may or may not consider 
itself primarily an advertising medium; it is so regarded by 

the advertiser and his agent. The advertising manager of the 
Post must be prepared to show that the Post is a profitable 
medium, a favorable medium; that the editorial content of 
the magazine is favorable to, and supplements, the message 
of the advertiser. 

Saturday Evening Post readers will perhaps recall that 
automobile fiction stories appear recurrently in that maga- 
zine; that these and other stories are often illustrated with 
happy and prosperous people in automobiles. Naturally the 
artist is not permitted to make recognizable a particular 
make of automobile. 

The implication must, of course, be qualified before it can 
stand. It would be expected in an automobile age that auto- 
mobiles should figure in much contemporary fiction. It would 
be impossible for the Post, which solicits and publishes ad- 
vertising of all kinds of products, to emphasize unduly in its 
editorial columns the use of any particular product. 

But it would also be bad business not to utilize the editorial 
content of the magazine to increase its value to advertisers, 
and that is exactly what is done as a matter of course, not 
merely by the Post, but by many other newspapers and mag- 
azines of large circulation, such as Good Housekeeping, 
House and Garden, Arts and Decoration. It is inevitable, 
since the publication is a business enterprise, that the business 
accounting should extend to the editorial as well as the ad- 
vertising management; the deciding vote in any issue is nat- 
urally that of the advertising management. 

American children, even a heavy percentage of the chil- 
dren of working class parents, brush their teeth. They have 
been taught to do so. By whom? 

By the manufacturers and advertisers of toothbrushes and 
toothpastes, operating directly through signed advertise- 
ments in newspapers and magazines, indirectly through the 
co-operation of the dental profession, indirectly through the 
more or less syndicated "health talks" published in news- 


papers and magazines, indirectly through the teaching of 
hygiene in the schools. The co-operation of the dental pro- 
fession is secured by the distribution of free samples to den- 
tists, the solicitation of salesmen, etc: but also and more 
importantly it is sought by "constructive educational" adver- 
tising in which the advertiser urges the reader to "visit your 
dentist every six months": such campaigns that of the S. S. 
White Company, manufacturer of dental chairs, mechanical 
equipment, supplies, etc., is an excellent example are in 
turn "merchandized" to the dental profession in the pro- 
fessional publications. "Merchandizing" consists essentially of 
advertisement of advertisements. The manufacturer points 
out to the dentist how much he is doing to "educate" the 
public to patronize the dentist, the implication being that 
in consideration for the manufacturer's expenditure in such 
"constructive" publicity, the dentist might well recommend 
the particular product to his patients. In the case cited the 
product was a good one, made according to a formula pre- 
pared by an eminent dentist, and the advertising copy more 
or less aggressively de-bunked the unscientific "talking- 
points" of competing dentifrices. A number of manufac- 
turers, notably Colgate, have followed this policy; others, 
such as Forhan's, Pepsodent, Ipana, etc., have found it more 
profitable to select a particular half -true talking point, ex- 
aggerate it, use the simple technique of fear appeal, and while 
continuing to seek the co-operation of the dental profession, 
discount the opposition of the more sensitive and "ethical" 
section of the profession. 

Education of another sort, secured through fostering 
the newspaper and magazine propaganda of "health talks," 
"preventive dentistry," etc., can rarely be made to benefit the 
interest of any particular manufacturer. In general such 
education is likely to be sound enough in intent, and at least 
harmless in effect, although sometimes objected to by den- 
tists on the ground that it is insufficiently critical and in- 


formative, and does not could not, since the publication is 
an advertising medium take issue with the bunk which is 
spread on the advertising pages. If the press were or could be 
a disinterested educational instrumentality it might be ex- 
pected to correct the mis-education sponsored by its adver- 
tisers, but then, if the press functioned in the interests of its 
readers rather than in the interests of its advertisers, it would 
not publish pseudo-scientific, more or less deceptive adver- 
tising. Again, the press is merely an advertising "medium"; 
not until the ghosts which use this medium to materialize 
their more or less sprightly profit-motivated antics not 
until these ghosts are exorcized can we expect the press to be 
anything except precisely what it is. Ethical judgments are 
pretty much irrelevant. A "good" medium is not a medium 
which materializes only good ghosts; a "good" medium is a 
medium through which ghosts, good, bad and indifferent 
can manifest themselves effectively. True, the more respect- 
able mediums are prejudiced against the more disreputable 
ghosts and exclude them from their pages. But such preju- 
dices and exclusions are also likely to be economically rather 
than ethically determined; the antics of the respectable 
ghosts require, for their maximum effectiveness a decent 
parlor half-light, not th ebawdy murk in which the direct- 
by-mail peddlers of aphrodisiacs, abortifacients, and con- 
traceptives squeal and gibber. And the bigger and better 
ghosts spend more, and more reliably. 

Another form of indirect education that which makes 
use of our public schools has both its positive and negative 
aspects. A familiar example of the positive use of this "me- 
dium" of formal education is the "toothbrush drill" taught 
children in the primary grades. Manufacturers of tooth- 
brushes and of dentifrices have used and benefited by this 
technique almost equally. They have enabled school boards 
to economize by supplying free or at cost the literature used 
in teaching dental hygiene, including various trick devices 


for making education amusing to the young. Such education 
is neither very good nor very bad in and of itself. But if a 
competent teacher or school nurse happens to believe, as do 
many dentists, that the toothbrush is a dubious blessing; that 
it should be used in strict moderation if at all; that the use, 
say, of dental floss, is considerably more valuable hygienically 
such a school functionary is likely to encounter the pres- 
sures by which heretics are disciplined unless she can get 
the dental floss manufacturers to spring to her aid. And 
finally, advertised toothbrushes and dentifrices are likely to 
be absurdly overpriced; education which results in teaching 
children to buy overpriced toothbrushes and dentifrices when 
the use of ordinary table salt, with the occasional use of 
dental floss, would constitute on the whole a more hygienic as 
well as more economical regimen such education has a cer- 
tain unmistakable ghostly quality. 

But the negative aspect of the advertising controls oper- 
ating on our publicly owned schools is vastly more important. 
In recent years a new specialty has appeared in the teach- 
ing of economics; it is called "consumption economics" and 
concerns itself with the consumer as a factor in the economic 
scheme; how can the consumer best serve his own interest? 
What is an intelligently balanced budget for a given income 
level? What items should be bought and how can such items 
be bought most economically? What are the possibilities and 
limits of such developments still embryonic in America 
as consumers' co-operatives, credit unions, consumers' re- 
search, etc. 

On the surface there would seem to be merit in this idea 
of "consumption economics." But ask the secretary of your 
local chamber of commerce, or the business manager of the 
local paper, or any prominent retailer what they think about 
it. Or ask some of the consumption economists, such as 
Robert Lynd, author of Middletoum, just how far they have 
got in their attempts to introduce such courses in the schools. 

The writer asked such questions; the answers were somewhat 
disheartening. In conclusion he asked an even more naive 
question: to whom do these public schools belong anyway? 
The answer, of course, is that they belong to the people, 
since all the people, directly or indirectly, pay taxes for their 
support. But their use in the interest of all the people is sim- 
ply impossible, because the interests of the people are divided 
and conflicting. In the case of "consumption economics," any 
attempt to perform for the masses of the population even 
the modest service which Consumers' Research performs for 
its 50,000 subscribers an expert measurement of the quali- 
ties and values of products and services offered for sale is 
and will be met by the united opposition of business and the 
allies of business: manufacturers, distributors, bankers, pub- 
lishers all the people who profit quite legitimately by sell- 
ing products and services in as great a volume as possible and 
for as much more than they are worth as the traffic will bear: 
all these people and all the people whose political voices they 
control: their employees, wives, sisters, uncles, aunts and 
cousins even perhaps some of the cousins who would like 
to consider themselves disinterested school superintendents 
and teachers serving the interests of all the people. The op- 
position is unqualified and rigorous. Business men are also in 
a sense educators. They use advertising and its related de- 
vices and techniques to "educate the consumer," to "break 
down sales resistance"; your earnest "consumption econo- 
mist" would like to use education to build up sales resistance. 
But let him try to do it. Anybody who would want to cut 
the Gordian knot of this "educational" dilemma with the 
liberal sword of "ethics" is welcome to his pains. 

In these few examples we have encountered advertising, 
propaganda and education as parts of a single economic nexus. 
It becomes necessary at this point to define these categories 
more sharply and to show their interrelations. 

The complex of phenomena is economic, institutional, 


technical, psychological, whereas the tendency of current 
criticism by liberal publicists has emphasized invidious eth- 
ical judgments. Yet it is only by re-defining such value 
judgments that the play of forces can be accurately described 
and analyzed. It is even more important to avoid the artificial 
isolation of phenomena which superficial moral and ethical 
criticism engenders. What we are dealing with is the institu- 
tional and ideological superstructure of competitive capital- 
ism. Whether we take our cue from Marx or merely from 
the respectable social ecologists, we may be sure that the 
mutual interaction of social phenomena, whether categoried as 
economic, sociological or psychological, is an immitigable fact; 
that when we seem to find isolate, perverse and irreconcilable 
elements in the picture, we are merely victims of our own 
thought patterns, for there can be nothing mysterious or 
isolate about the phenomena. The contemporary French his- 
torian, Andre Siegfried, is obviously aware of the continuity 
and mutual interaction of the social and economic phenomena 
we have been describing when he writes, in America's Com- 
ing of Age: "Under the direction of remarkably intelligent 
men, publicity has become an important factor in the United 
States and perhaps even the keynote of the whole economic 

Note that M. Siegfried is using "publicity" as an inclu- 
sive term to denote all forms of advertising, propaganda and 
press agentry. The writer would both widen and sharpen this 
inclusion by showing that the apparatus of newspaper and 
periodical publishing, radio broadcasting, motion picture pro- 
duction and distribution; with the conjoined apparatus of 
advertising agencies, public relations experts, and dealers in 
direct-by-mail, car card, and poster advertising, constitute 
in effect a single institution; further, that the institutions 
and techniques of formal education, both secondary and 
collegiate, are also closely related and functional within the 
general scheme; that the purpose and effect of these con- 


joined institutions and techniques is rule; the shaping and 
control of the economic, social and psychological patterns of 
the population in the interests of a profit-motivated dom- 
inant class, the business class. 

The necessity of such broad inclusions in any systematic 
analysis of the phenomena becomes apparent when we come 
to define our major categories. The definition of advertising 
offered by Frank Presbrey in his History and Development 
of Advertising is as follows: "Advertising is printed, written, 
or graphic salesmanship, deriving from oral salesmanship." 
This, of course, should be corrected to include radio and mo- 
tion picture advertising, but otherwise may be allowed to 
stand. The point to be emphasized is that the practical ad- 
vertising man views all these instruments of communication 
newspapers, magazines, radio, motion picture as advertis- 
ing media; that this is in fact the accurate, realistic and sig- 
nificant view to take of these instruments of social communi- 
cation, whereas the thought patterns of liberal laymen tend 
to make them appear to represent some sort of ideal func- 
tional relationship between editor and reader, or broadcaster 
and Great Radio Public a relationship which these curious 
parasitic growths, advertising and publicity, are insidiously, 
immorally perverting. The layman sees that the tail is wag- 
ging the dog. The advertising man knows that the tail is 
the dog and acts accordingly. He knows that there is no real 
separation between the business and editorial offices of a mod- 
ern publication; that where such a separation appears to 
obtain it is purely a management device, designed to insure 
the more effective functioning of the publication as an ad- 
vertising medium. He knows, for he is called in as a "pub- 
lisher's consultant" to plan and execute the job that the 
conception of a modern commercial publication starts with 
the definition and segregation of a particular buying public, 
which may be recruited and held together by a particular 
type of editorial policy and content. The publisher's consult - 


ant sees an unoccupied, or insecurely occupied niche in the 
crowded spectrum of daily and periodical publishing. The 
publication is thereupon concocted to the specifications nec- 
essary to entertain or inform that particular section of the 
buying public. The objective is not attained, however, until 
the circulation so recruited is sold to advertisers at so much 
per head, the charge being based on the average buying 
power and the demonstrated "reader-interest" of the readers. 
"Reader-interest" is measured by response to advertising and 
the editorial content of the magazine is carefully designed, 
as already indicated, to strengthen this response. You pay 
your money and you take your choice, depending upon the 
nature of your product or service and the methods by which 
it is promoted. The readers of True Romances, for example, 
are poor but numerous and credulous, whereas the readers of 
The Sportsman are comparatively few, but very rich and 
susceptible to the arts of flattery and sycophancy. In both 
cases the collaboration of the editorial and business manage- 
ments is intimate and accepted as a matter of course. Criti- 
cism of such arrangements by the more or less obsolete criteria 
of an ideal reader-editor relationship is beside the point, since 
the determinants are the objective forces of the competitive 
capitalist economy. 

In propaganda we encounter a phenomenon even more dis- 
turbing and puzzling to liberal publicists and sociologists, 
especially since the experience of the war demonstrated the 
dominance of this technique of social control in modern so- 
cieties. Again, contemporary students have been frustrated 
by their tendency to view the phenomenon as isolate and 

The latest book on propaganda, which digests and sum- 
marizes much that has been written on the subject by con- 
temporary sociologists and publicists, is The Propaganda 
Menace by Professor Frederic E. Lumley, of Ohio State Uni- 
versity. Professor Lumley experiences much difficulty in 


reaching a satisfactory definition of propaganda. After re- 
jecting innumerable definitions offered by contemporary 
educators and sociologists, he offers us the following: 

Propaganda is promotion which is veiled in one way or another 
as to (i) its origin or sources, (2) the interests involved, (3) the 
methods employed, (4) the content spread and (5) the results 
accruing to the victims any one, any two, any three, any four, 
any five. 

In Professor Lumley's view the contrasting opposite to 
propaganda, necessary in defining any term, is "education." 
And it is precisely there that his definition falls down, be- 
cause of the highly conditioned and shifting quality of the 
latter concept. More or less aware of these confusions, aware 
that education must be related to some conception of social 
change, Professor Lumley takes refuge in the relatively so- 
phisticated and acute definition of education offered by Pro- 
fessor Bode as follows: 

When formal education becomes necessary in order to fit the 
individual for his place in the social order, there arises a need for 
reflection on the aims and purposes of education and of life. Many 
aims have been proposed, but if we view intelligence from the 
standpoint of development, the conclusion is indicated that aims 
are constantly changing and that education is, as a matter of fact, 
the liberation of capacity; or in Bagley's phraseology, it means 
training for achievement. To make this liberation of capacity or 
this process of growth a controlling ideal means the cultivation, of 
sensitiveness to the human quality of subject matter by presenting 
it in its social context. The fact that a given type of education is 
classed as liberal or cultural is no guarantee that it fosters this 
quality of mind. Unless this sensitiveness is deliberately cultivated, 
many human interests, such as business, science and technical voca- 
tions, do not become decently humanized. And to cultivate this 

sensitiveness deliberately means that it is made the guiding ideal 
for education. 

In this definition Professor Bode recognizes the necessity of 
relating education to social change. He does not, in the passage 
quoted, take account of the dynamics of social change. One 
does not need to insist upon a strict Marxian interpretation to 
describe the essential nature of social change. It will be readily 
granted by most readers that the conflict of pressure groups 
within the social order results in shifting balances of power; 
that these pressure groups tend to represent economic classes; 
that the issues of conflict tend to be economic at bottom; that 
the basic cause of change is the changing level of the produc- 
tive forces in our day the machine technology. This is not 
to ignore the equally real role played by pressure groups in 
the fields of the social mores, religion, race, etc., but merely 
to emphasize the economic and class roots of this perpetual 
conflict, where propaganda is so powerfully instrumental. 

If this is so, then there are certain crucial undefined terms 
imbedded in Professor Bode's definition. What, for example, is 
meant by "fitting the individual for his place in the social 
order"? Obviously the students whom Professor Bode pro- 
poses to educate after this fashion occupy not the same but 
different places in our social order, which, while retaining a 
certain residual fluidity manifests an increasing rigidity and 
class stratification. To fit a third generation Rockefeller for 
his place in the social order is obviously a task different from 
that of fitting Isidore Bransky, son of a radical East Side pants 
maker, for his place, which is a matter of strictly limited but 
crucial choice, depending upon whether young Bransky leaves 
his class or doesn't; whether he is fitted to become a labor 
organizer, legal defense worker, radical journalist or merely 
an energetic legal ambulance chaser, political fixer or other 
capitalist functionary in business or in the professions. Should 
or can the educator remain above the battle as respects this 


choice? Will not the educational means by which capacity is 
liberated necessarily affect it? Finally, would Professor Bode 
attempt to deny that education in a typical university does 
inevitably indoctrinate and that on the whole it indoctrinates 
in the direction of conformity to the existing order? In 
honesty, must not the teacher tell his student that ordinarily 
he must save his body by serving an exploitative system and, 
if possible save his soul by helping to destroy this system? 

What is meant by presenting subject matter "in its social 
context"? Whose social context? Does Professor Bode mean 
by social context the contemporary class conflicts of American 
capitalism exacerbated by the internal and international con- 
flicts of our "surplus economy"? Does he mean the perhaps 
imminent "freezing" of the capitalist structure into the cor- 
porative forms of Fascism? 

Returning to Professor Lumley, it might well be alleged 
that in urging "education" as a preventive and cure of the 
propaganda menace, Professor Lumley is really writing prop- 
aganda for a particular concept of education: the concept of 
an objective, disinterested effort to release capacity. Further, 
it might be argued that this concept is doomed to remain in 
the field of theory, since it is observably nonexistent in 
practice. Finally, it may be suggested that to erect a purely 
conceptual theory of education, while ignoring the contem- 
porary practices and very real economic determinants of 
educators and the institutions they work for, is itself a kind of 
propaganda: propaganda by suppression which is one of Pro- 
fessor Lumley's recognized categories. 

The necessity of such realistic clarifications cannot be 
evaded, and to Professor Bode's credit it must be said that he, 
at least in his later, more advanced position does not try to 
evade them. With Dewey, Counts and other modern educators 
he acknowledges frankly that the theory of education pro- 
pounded in the passage quoted above is applicable only in a 
classless society. 

Behold, then, this precious absolute, education, the hope of 
democracy! The more we turn it up to the light, whether we 
examine its practice or even its theory as expressed by leading 
educators, the more it dissolves in relativity. And our crucial 
problem remains with us: what is education and what is prop- 
aganda with respect to the problems of the individual in 
our society, faced as it is, with the self -preservative necessity 
of fundamental social change? 

If it were only possible to posit an ideal disinterested ob- 
jectivity on the part of the educator, and an absence of 
pressure controls operating upon our educational institutions, 
the problem would be greatly simplified. But, as we have 
seen, leading educators properly discard such claims. The 
facts of class interest and individual subjectivity must be and 
now are, generally admitted. The coercions of the social order, 
for achievement in which the student is trained, these, too, 
are frankly acknowledged. Recently Dr. Abraham Flexner 
has noted with proper but perhaps futile indignation the ten- 
dency to vocationalize our institutions of higher learning, 
that is, to make them functional with respect to the require- 
ments of business, and to the survival necessities of students. 
And we have with us always the issue of "academic freedom": 
the degree to which a teacher is permitted to express views 
in conflict with the economic and social status quo. The under- 
lying fact, of course, is that in both privately and publicly 
supported educational institutions the interest and prejudices 
of the ruling class are ultimately determining, whenever edu- 
cation enters the field of contemporary social and political 

Many teachers, even of the social sciences, are quite uncon- 
scious of these determinants and preserve the confident illu- 
sion of "scientific objectivity" in the very act of asserting 
creedal absolutes which are obviously a product of social and 
economic class conditioning. Professor Lumley is himself a 
conspicuous example of this. In his concluding chapter he 


writes: "No sane person wants revolutionary communistic 
propaganda spread in this country." Is this the language of an 
objective, disinterested educator? Professor Lumley urges that 
instead of deporting and lynching Reds, their agitation be 
combatted (i) by destroying the soil of gullibility through 
education and (2) by removing desperate need through 
liberal reformism. Such recommendations may seem relatively 
enlightened and civilized, but they are not quite sufficient to 
rehabilitate Professor Lumley in his role of disinterested edu- 

The dubiousness of his position would quickly appear under 
circumstances such as the following: suppose that because 
of the disinterested teaching of Dr. Lumley one of his students 
had escaped the class-conditioned thought patterns of his 
family and friends, or that, because of the logical capacities 
released by education he had broken through these patterns. 
Suppose that this student, having acquired some acquaintance 
with Marx, Engels, Veblen, Lenin and others, should elect as 
the subject of his doctor's thesis The Position of the Social 
Scientist under American Capitalism. The application of the 
Marxian analysis to this material might well result in "revolu- 
tionary communistic propaganda." Would Professor Lumley 
pronounce his student insane and withdraw his fellowship? 
If not, should he not have to consider himself insane for per- 
mitting the spread of "revolutionary communistic prop- 

One thinks of a third solution for this imaginary academic 
dilemma: shove the student back into the educational mill 
and trust that on his re-emergence he would have more 
sense. Then suggest to him, as an interesting subject for a 
thesis, Paranoiac Traits in Modern Radical Leaders. 

It is indeed difficult to escape the conviction that the god 
of education, like other gods, is not merely man-made, but 
made by a particular group of men as a rationalization of their 
role in the complex struggle of social forces of "pressure 

1 60 

groups": further, that the institutions built up to exemplify 
and discharge this role our schools and universities are 
similarly subject to such rationalized determinants. The 
claim of disinterestedness, of universality, is also made for 
the press, although Professor Lumley has no difficulty in see- 
ing that the latter institution becomes inevitably an instru- 
ment of pressure groups. The same claim is even made for 
business, the instrument of profit-motivated property own- 
ers. All of these claims are of course equally invalid; none of 
these institutions is separate or self-sufficient; all are swept 
into the struggle of conflicting social forces; advertising, 
propaganda and education are inextricably merged and inter- 

The contemporary fact of this confusion is excellently il- 
lustrated by the propaganda activities of the National Elec- 
tric Light Association, to which Professor Lumley devotes an 
indignant chapter. The investigation of the Federal Trade 
Commission and the writings of H. S. Raushenbush, Ernest 
Gruening and others have familiarized most readers with the 
theory and practice of this propaganda campaign in behalf 
of our privately owned light and power corporations. It will 
be sufficient here to point out that the instruments of adver- 
tising, propaganda and education were all used in such a 
way as to reinforce each other, all contributing to the crude 
economic objective of protecting and conserving the vested 
interests of private property in exploiting for profit an es- 
sential public service. 

Direct, explicit, signed propaganda by the National Elec- 
tric Light Association and its member companies was used in 
the form of paid advertising. This provided an economic 
leverage for the control of the news and editorial content of 
the press as effecting the interests of the light and power 
companies. Note that the press was in a bargaining position. 
Newspaper publishers could and did on occasion threaten to 
expose the iniquities of the "power trust" unless the local 


companies could be brought to see the propriety of buying 
advertising space in their papers. Once this concession was 
made, the papers willingly "co-operated" with the NELA 
campaign, by printing the propaganda furnished by the pub- 
licity directors in the form of mats, boiler plate and mime- 
ographed releases. One interesting and important point is 
totally missed by Professor Lumley. In the case of the NELA 
campaign, as of other propagandas by vested commercial in- 
terests, what was in effect a method of control by bribery 
(blackmail from the point of view of the NELA) was prac- 
ticable only with respect to the smaller and less powerful 
newspapers, just as it was only the less eminent professors 
who accepted fees for making speeches and writing texts fa- 
vorable to the power interests. Integrity, as Stuart Chase has 
pointed out, is a luxury in our civilization. It is, with certain 
qualifications, one of the privileges of wealth and power. No 
evidence was produced to show that the NELA had bribed 
the New York Times. Attempts were made to influence the 
Associated Press, but that is a mutual corporation, in which 
the pressure upon individual members backs up inevitably 
upon the directing officials. 

On the other hand, it is equally important to note that it 
wasn't necessary to bribe the New York Times, and that, 
stupid as the NELA publicity directors proved themselves to 
be, they probably had more sense than to try to bribe either 
the Times or other major publishing corporations. Yet the 
editorials in the Times, and its handling of public utility news, 
especially with respect to the private versus public ownership 
issue, have been pretty consistently favorable to the power 
interests. Why? Obviously, because the Times is itself a major 
capitalist property. It is part of the complex of financial, 
business and social relationships which produces what is called 
a "conservative" point of view. The owners and managers who 
express and make effective this point of view are often not 
aware of the economic and social pressures which influence 


them. They act unconsciously, much as an experienced driver 
operates an automobile he is "part of the car." The specific 
allegiance rarely becomes overt and fully conscious. 

Respectable and powerful newspapers and magazines can- 
not be expected to swallow and approve the rawer aspects of 
contemporary commercial propaganda. The Times duly 
slapped the wrist of the National Electric Light Association, 
following the exposures of the Federal Trade Commission. It 
did not go down the line for Mr. Doheny and Secretary Fall 
during the Teapot Dome scandal, though from time to time it 
deprecates Congressional investigations as in general "bad 
for business." 

Some service not only lip service but actual service is 
due the concept of a "free press" and a modicum of such serv- 
ice can usually be obtained even by radical minority groups. 
The amount and quality of such service is determined by the 
circumstances of the individual case. The major determining 
factors are: the inherent news value of the incident and its 
relation to other current news; the success with which cur- 
rent liberal concepts of free speech, legal rights, etc., can be 
appealed to; the class origin and political orientation of the 
reporter who covers the story; the current pressures of local, 
national and foreign news; the reputation of the radical prop- 
agandist as a reliable news source; the mass pressure brought 
to bear upon the newspaper. 

The writer has served as a commercial publicity man, an 
advertising man and as a radical propagandist. All these 
techniques require careful measurement and utilization of the 
forces operative in a given complex of public relations. 
Neither as a commercial propagandist nor as a radical prop- 
agandist is it intelligent to act on the assumption that the 
capitalist press is "kept," to use the familiar half -true radical 
jibe. It must always be remembered that the press has to 
"keep" itself; that it has its own particular values, traditions 
and technical requirements to conserve. Although, primarily 

because of the dominance of advertising, the press functions 
in general as an organ of business, it functions with relation 
to circulations which usually include a variety of more or less 
organized and articulate pressure groups. Also, journalism is 
a profession with an ethical tradition. Both the somewhat 
eroded and romantic professional traditions of journalism and 
our somewhat debilitated concepts of democratic freedom 
and fair play can still be used to temper the winds of "public 
opinion" to the shorn lambs of radical protest and agitation 
especially when mass pressure in the form of protests, 
strikes, and demonstrations is used to force the issue. 

Yet it must be confessed that these are all frail reeds to lean 
upon in a pinch, especially if the pinch is local. To illustrate 
this last point, it is sufficient to point to the contrast between 
the handling of the 1931 disorders in the Kentucky coal 
fields by the Kentucky press, as against the performance of the 
distant metropolitan journals and press associations. The local 
editors editorialized against the "Red menace," and in their 
news reporting suppressed and distorted the unquestionable 
facts of starvation of strikers, discrimination in the admin- 
istration of public and private relief, the capture of the ma- 
chinery of justice by the coal corporations and the violence 
of middle-class mobs. True, on that occasion the Associated 
Press also broke down, because the local A. P. reporter hap- 
pened to be also one of the leaders of the middle-class mob 
which illegally deported one of the successive delegations of 
writers and students which entered the strike area to bring 
relief to the strikers and to report the facts of the situation 
to the country at large. But the protests of Dos Passos and 
others were effective on that occasion: the offending A. P. 
correspondent was dismissed. And shortly afterward the New 
York Times sent a special correspondent, Mr. Louis Stark, to 
Harlan County, where he did an honest and competent re- 
porting job in a series of signed articles. 

A similar situation developed in connection with the 


Scottsboro case, in which seven negro boys faced legal lynch- 
ing in a situation growing out of race prejudice and conflict 
fostered by ruling-class economic interests. The evidence on 
which the boys were convicted, later shown to have been 
largely perjured, was accepted pretty much without question 
by almost the entire Southern press. The lynch atmosphere 
surrounding the first trial was largely suppressed. The case 
was consistently "played down" throughout the South. Citi- 
zens of New York learned more about the Scottsboro case 
through the papers than citizens of Alabama. As a result of 
the efforts of the International Labor Defense, a Communist- 
led organization, a new trial was ordered by the United States 
Supreme Court. The boys were again convicted by a jury 
obviously swayed by anti-negro, anti-Jew and anti-radical 
appeals to prejudice. But the New 'York Times reporter, Mr. 
F. W. Daniell, reported the trial with notable accuracy and 
fairness, whereas the Southern press for the most part con- 
tinued the policy of suppression and distortion, dictated by 
the pressures of local and regional ruling-class prejudice and 
interests. In this case the factor of professional pride entered 
also into the equation. The prosecution made the mistake of 
treating Mr. Daniell and other correspondents with scant 
courtesy. Promptly and without trepidation, Mr. Daniell, both 
in his personal conduct and in his dispatches, made it clear 
that the Alabama authorities were in no position to bully 
and coerce the correspondent of the New York Times. 

The press handling of the communist-led Hunger March to 
Washington in the fall of 1932 provides another interesting 
example. In this case the Hoover Administration broadcast ap- 
peals to State and local authorities to "stop the Hunger 
March." The evidence is overwhelming that the press, actu- 
ated by the alarm of the administration and of business, un- 
dertook more or less concertedly to play down and ridicule 
the demonstration. The dispatches, both while the columns 
were enroute to Washington and after their arrival, were so 

i6 5 

colored and so flagrantly editorialized as to surprise even ex- 
perienced radical organizers. The demonstrators were "neither 
hungry nor marching." The March was treated as a Com- 
munist publicity stunt and both the leaders and the rank and 
file were consistently ridiculed. Radio and news reels joined 
this hostile chorus. But in the end, after the Washington 
police had executed their melodramatic coup, and the 3,000 
marchers were practically imprisoned on a stretch of wind- 
swept highway on the outskirts of the capital, the unity of the 
conservative press front began to crack. 

There were several factors in this partial failure of the 
anti-communist propaganda. In the first place, the Commu- 
nist organizers of the Unemployed Councils, hugely handi- 
capped as they were by lack of funds and by the terrified 
inertia of the destitute unemployed workers, had by sheer 
drive and energy accomplished a notable feat in bringing the 
three columns of marchers to a point of convergence on the 
capital within a few hours of each other. In the second place 
the more radical working class groups in the cities through 
which they passed had cheered the marchers, aided them with 
contributions of food and shelter, and otherwise counter- 
acted the efforts of the authorities to disintegrate and abort 
the enterprise. In the third place, Herbert Benjamin, the Com- 
munist Director of the march, proved himself to be a cool, 
resourceful, courageous and humanly appealing leader. He 
contrasted favorably with Major (Duck -Legs) Brown, who 
directed the forces of the District of Columbia police. The 
genuine discipline of the marchers contrasted favorably with 
the provocative brutality and obvious unfairness of the 
police. Protests, sponsored by more or less well-known liberals, 
and invoking the rights of free speech, appeal to the govern- 
ment, etc., were duly printed in the conservative papers. 
From the publicity point of view, the most effective effort on 
the radical side was the delegation of socially prominent New 
York women which came to Washington and protested to 


Vice President Curtis and various Congressmen and Senators. 
Known radicals, however prominent, are comparatively use- 
less for such purposes; their protests are not "news" and the 
conservative press virtuously plays them down as "publicity- 

In the case of the Washington Hunger March the protests 
of the prominent liberals and radicals helped, but what helped 
most was the fact that Hoover, his official family and the 
brass hats of the army were personally unpopular with the 
Washington correspondents and with the staff members of 
the local papers. This unpopularity was a factor in the forth- 
right protests and the vigorous news writing which accom- 
panied and followed Hoover's expulsion of the Bonus Army a 
few months before. The Washington News printed the fla- 
grant facts of police brutality and provocation and editori- 
ally protested (The News is the local Scripps-Howard paper 
and the city editor happened to be a liberal, as well as per- 
sonally popular with the newspaper fraternity. ) At this point 
the hitherto almost unanimous hostility of the capitalist press 
began to falter. The disparity of forces, as between the 
microscopic army of determined, but unarmed and unviolent 
marchers, and the armed might of the government police 
and military made the administration's effort to convert the 
demonstration into a Red scare seem a little ridiculous. The 
climax came when Benjamin executed his hair-raising "dress- 
rehearsal," after which he had said: "Tomorrow we march." 
The next day came the official order permitting the marchers 
to enter Washington. 

What, by the way, was this performance? In its essence it 
was propaganda, or if you like, education, in one of its high- 
est manifestations: that of strategic, dramatic action. It had 
its effect, despite the effort of the conservative press to sup- 
press and distort its significance and muffle its reverberations. 

With respect to this case there are a number of interesting 
points to be noted. First, the Washington press, especially the 

News, treated the marchers more fairly on the whole than 
the New York papers. In some instances the latter headlined 
the dispatches of their correspondents in such a way as to 
distort, always in derision of the marchers, the true bearing 
of the story. 

The apparent reversal of the usual in such situations is sim- 
ply explained. In this case the pinch was not so much local 
as national. The ruling-class and middle-class interests and 
prejudices served by the capitalist press throughout the coun- 
try were vigorously hostile to the Communists and especially 
hostile to that particular demonstration. But in Washington 
thousands of people had witnessed the inept and brutal per- 
formance of the police. Although middle-class Washington 
public opinion was in general hostile or indifferent to the 
marchers, Washington didn't like Hoover, nor did it like the 
repetition, by a defeated and discredited administration, of 
tactics rawer if anything than those employed against the 
Bonus Army. 

The Washington papers did nothing comparable to the ex- 
ploit of a Daily News reporter who invented out of whole 
cloth and published a speech alleged to have been made by 
Herbert Benjamin, violently inciting his followers to a blood- 
thirsty attack upon Washington. Theoretically, the News 
couldn't do such a thing because it is a mass paper sold to 
"Sweeney," the working man or at least its promotion 
literature so alleges. It was the Struggle of Sweeney that Ben- 
jamin was supporting. Actually, something of the sort was 
to be expected. The News uses sensational tabloid methods to 
exploit, for purely commercial purposes, the economic illiter- 
acy and the economic and psychological helplessness of its 
readers. The News is a business property, a commercial, 
profit-making enterprise, and an advertising medium. 

With the foregoing case histories in mind, let us return 
to our major categories, advertising, propaganda and educa- 
tion, and examine once more the liberal views of Professor 


Lumley and others. The thing to look for in any system of 
social communication is the point of control. Obviously, the 
key phenomenon is advertising, which is in turn merely an 
instrument of competitive business. A commercial publica- 
tion is an advertising medium, that is to say, an instrument 
by which advertisers, with the complex of interests and prej- 
udices which they represent, shape and control the economic, 
social and political patterns of the literate population: di- 
rectly through the signed advertisements themselves; indi- 
rectly through the controlled or influenced editorial content 
of the publication; indirectly through the controlled or in- 
fluenced content of formal education in the schools and col- 

When a powerful vested interest, such as the electric power 
industry, wishes by means of propaganda to shape public opin- 
ion favorably to its interests, it is advertising that enables it 
readily to employ the instruments of the daily and periodical 
press, radio, motion picture, etc., for this purpose. Advertising 
is, of course, itself propaganda, but more important, the grant- 
ing or withholding of an advertising contract offers a means 
of bribing or coercing indirect propaganda in the editorial 
columns of the publication. Finally, where such bribery or 
coercion is impracticable, as in the case of powerful publica- 
tions like the Times, the same end is secured by reason of 
the fact that the Times is an advertising medium. As such it 
is an instrument of business, and its editorial policies are 
conditioned by the pressures of the dominant economic 

Professor Lumley exclaims at the omnipresence of propa- 
ganda. Our civilization, he says is "spooky" with the ghosts of 
propaganda hiding behind every bush. The professor has had 
nerves. Propaganda is no more and no less omnipresent than 
the vested interests of competing and conflicting economic 
and social pressure groups. The balance of power is held by 
business, which, through advertising, controls the instruments 


of social communication. There is nothing mysterious about 
it, nothing moral, nothing ethical and nothing disinterested. 
How could there be? Miracles don't happen in the body poli- 
tic any more than they do in the physical body of man. 

Advertising is propaganda, advertising is education, propa- 
ganda is advertising, education is propaganda, educational in- 
stitutions use and are used by advertising and propaganda. 
Shuffle the terms any way you like, any one, any two, any 
three, to paraphrase Professor Lumley. What emerges is the 
fact that it is impossible to dissociate the phenomena, and 
that all three, each in itself, or in combination are instru- 
ments of rule. 

Whether the use of these instruments is veiled or overt will 
doubtless continue to be a matter of grave ethical concern to 
liberals like Professor Lumley. But the majority of the propa- 
ganda to which he objects is overt. 

Every journalist knows this. The editors of The New Yorker 
are journalists, highly competent and sophisticated in that 
field, and they take great pleasure in jibing at the bizarre 
efforts of the "public relations" experts. On occasion they 
become as disgusted as any man about town can permit him- 
self to become without risk of rumpling his hair. The fol- 
lowing comment from Talk of the Town in its issue of 
Feb. 10, 1934, is an example. The note is headed Many Happy 
Returns and I quote the first and the concluding sentences : 

The Quadruple-Screw Turbo-Electric Vessel Queen of Bermuda, 
Capt. H. Jeffries Davis, was the scene last week of a novel birth- 
day party for President Roosevelt and the Warm Springs Founda- 
tion on behalf of the Bermuda News Bureau, the Furness Bermuda 
Line, the Fashion Originators Guild, and Island Voyager Magazine, 
by special arrangement with James Montgomery Flagg, Howard 
Chandler Christy, Carl Mueller, John LaGatta, McClelland Barclay, 
forty mannequins, the six most beautiful girls in America and 
Lastex. Mrs. James Roosevelt, mother of the President, received. . . . 


Her son, Franklin, in whose honor the party was given, was 
fifty-two years old; and there were moments . . . when we won- 
dered whether the country he has been working so hard to save 
was worth the effort. 

One is moved to ask Professor Lumley if there is anything 
insidious or lacking in frankness about this extraordinary 
synthesis of personal, political, philanthropic and commercial 
propaganda? Let us consider for a moment, realistically, this 
question of the veiled or overt use of the instruments of 
social communication as a problem in tactics. One admits 
that the public which sees the end result only is frequently 
unaware of the origins of propaganda. But ordinarily the 
propagandist himself proceeds quite overtly in manipulating 
his instruments. 

Advertising is overt enough as to its origin or sources be- 
cause it is signed by the advertiser. The interest involved is 
overt; the advertiser wants to sell you something for more 
than it is worth, so that he can make a profit on the transac- 
tion. The method is more or less tricky, since it usually in- 
volves taking advantage of the economic, social and psycho- 
logical naivete of the reader. The results accruing to the reader 
or to the advertiser are pretty much unpredictable as to 
either party. 

The majority of successful propaganda practice, whether by 
commercial "public relations counsellors" like Edward Ber- 
nays and Ivy Lee or by radical propagandists is overt; the 
name of the propagandist or the company or organization he 
represents is typed or printed at the top of his release. Some- 
times commercial interests use dummy organizations as a 
"front." For example, the munitions makers are more or less 
back of the National Security League, just as the Communists 
are more or less back of various peripheral organizations in 
the field of labor defense, relief, etc. But to suppose that the 
hard-boiled publishers and editors of the commercial press are 

taken in by these fronts is to be impossibly na'ive. Also, in the 
case of a powerful commercial client, such as, for example, the 
Rockefeller interests, Mr. Lee has everything to gain by 
having the release come from 26 Broadway. And in the case 
of the radical propagandist, nothing makes the city desk so 
suspicious and sour as clumsy attempts at indirection. As 
already pointed out, Benjamin's "dress-rehearsal" of the Hun- 
ger March into Washington was excellent propaganda and 
surely that was overt enough. Admittedly, occasional veiled 
publicity coups come off successfully; but the percentage of 
such triumphs is relatively negligible and the backlash the 
next time you try to make the papers more than wipes out 
your gains. 

The publicity Machiavellis of the National Electric Light 
Association were the laughing stock of the public relations 
profession and the catastrophe which befell them was cheer- 
fully predicted long before it happened. They failed precisely 
because they were not sufficiently overt. So far as the press 
was concerned, all they had to do was to walk in the front 
door of the business office, sign their advertising contracts and 
get pretty nearly everything they wanted. Expense? "The 
public pays the expense," to quote Deak Aylesworth's classic 
line. Instead of which they employed the most extraordinary 
collection of publicity incompetents that has ever been assem- 
bled under one tent. They were equally stupid when it came 
to professors. All they succeeded in hiring were cheap aca- 
demic hacks who in the end did them more harm than good. 

As already pointed out, business can influence or control our 
schools and universities when it wants to or feels that it has 
to. Professor Lumley's ideal purification of the educational 
function falls down at this point and at a number of others, 
suggested in the following questions: how does an educator, 
unless one grants an inconceivably psychological self-aware- 
ness, know whether or not be is "veiling" the origin or sources 
of his instruction, the interests involved, the methods in- 


volved or the content spread? How can he anticipate the 
results accruing to the victims of either education or propa- 

Apparently, what chiefly confuses liberals like Professor 
Lumley is the residual ideological and institutional debris of 
"democracy." The thing becomes instantly explicit and forth- 
right when rule is exercised by a dictatorship and competi- 
tion for rule is eliminated by force. The liberal illusions of a 
free press, free radio, free speech, constitutional rights, objec- 
tive education, etc., all disappear almost overnight. This has 
been happening under our eyes in Russia, Italy and Ger- 
many. Do liberals have to be cracked on the head before they 
can see it? 

Pinkevitch, in his Education in Soviet Russia, classifies 
propaganda, and agitation as forms of education operating on 
somewhat lower intellectual levels. Press, radio, schools, col- 
leges, are all owned and operated by the state as instruments 
of rule in behalf of the ruling class, the class of workers and 
peasants. The purpose for which these instruments are used 
is to make Communists, just as they are used in Italy to make 
Fascists, and in America to make our curious menagerie of 
capitalists, capitalist snuggle-pups, saps, suckers, morons, 
snobs, pacifists, militarists, wets, drys, Communists, liberals, 
New Dealers, double dealers and Holy Rollers. 

In America the industry is hugely ramified but the under- 
lying motivations, controls and mechanisms are relatively 
simple, although, of course, as in any transitional period of 
social conflict, the balance of power is constantly shifting. A 
capitalist democracy is a state of conflict almost by definition. 
Rather than to catalogue these conflicts, expressing them- 
selves in the form of propaganda, it would seem more profita- 
ble to accept our instruments of social communication for 
what they are: instruments of rule; then to describe how these 
instruments are used, in whose behalf and to what end. 




THE conception of "Truth in Advertising" is at once the 
least tenable and the most necessary tenet of the ad-man's 
doctrine. This contradiction arises from the fact that the 
advertising business is essentially an enterprise in the exploita- 
tion of belief. 

It is untenable because profit-motivated business, in its rela- 
tions with the consumer, is necessarily exploitative not mod- 
erately and reasonably exploitative, but exploitative up to the 
tolerance limit of the traffic. This tolerance limit is determined 
not by ethical considerations, which are strictly irrelevant, 
but by the ability of the buyer to detect and penalize dis- 
honesty and deception. This ability varies with the individual, 
but in general reaches its minimum in the case of the isolated 
ultimate consumer. 

No manufacturer, in buying his raw materials or his 
mechanical equipment, trusts the integrity of the seller except 
in so far as he is obliged to do so. So far as possible, he protects 
himself by specifications, inspections and tests, and by legally 
enforceable contracts that penalize double-dealing. 

But when the manufacturer or retailer turns to selling his 
finished product to the ultimate consumer, the situation is 
reversed and the elements are sharply different. In his natural 
state the ultimate consumer is ignorant enough in all con- 
science. But he is not permitted to remain in his natural state. 
It would be unprofitable, unbusinesslike, to leave him in his 


natural state. Hence business has developed the apparatus of 
advertising, which, as the editor of the leading advertising 
trade publication has pointed out,* is scarcely a thing in 
itself, but merely a function of business management. 

That function is not merely to sell customers, but to manu- 
facture customers. Veblen, with his customary precision, has 
indicated both the object and the technique of this function: 

The production of customers by sales publicity is evidently the 
same thing as the production of systematized illusions organized 
into serviceable "action patterns" serviceable, that is, for the use 
of the seller in whose account and for whose profit the customer is 
being produced. 

What has honesty or truth to do with this business? A great 
deal, because the idea of truth is a highly exploitable asset. 
Always, the customer must be made to feel that the seller 
is honest and truthful and that he needs or wants the product 
offered for sale. Hence the advertising business becomes an 
enterprise in the coincident manufacture and exploitation of 
reader-confidence and reader-acceptance. In this respect the 
ad-man's technique is not essentially different from that of 
any vulgar confidence man whose stock in trade is invariably 
a plausible line of chatter about his alleged "trustfulness" 
and "honesty." The writer has watched these gentry operat- 
ing all the way from Los Angeles to Coney Island. Their 
annual "take," while less than that of their respectable cousins 
in the advertising business, is still enormous. Their techniques 
and successes, if studied by sociologists, would I am convinced, 
yield valuable data regarding the contemporary American 
social psychology. 

Once, at Signal Hill, near Long Beach, California, the writer 
permitted an oil stock salesman to give him transportation 
from Los Angeles to the oil well, and to lead him through the 

Roy Dickinson, president of Printers' Ink, in "Advertising Careers.' 


successive steps by which the "sucker" is noosed, thrown and 
shorn. The prospects, consisting of about a hundred more or 
less recently arrived Middle Western farmers, their wives and 
children, seemed naively appreciative of the hot dogs and 
coffee, and of the genuinely accomplished sales histrionism 
which they were getting free. One saw that they were devout 
believers in magic of the cruder sorts, ranging from funda- 
mentalism, through rugged individualism, and spreading into 
the more exotic side-shows of Yoga, the Apostle of Oom, 
numerology, spiritualism, etc., etc., which at that time in- 
fested Los Angeles and still do. Their faces were weather- 
worn, their hands were stubby. They were indeed enormously 
decent and hard-working people with less effective knowl- 
edge of their social environment than any African savage. 

At the climax of the performance, after an oil-smeared 
ex-vaudevillian had rampaged up the aisle proclaiming that 
"No. 6 had just come in at ten thousand gallons," a scatter- 
ing few came forward and signed on the dotted line. They 
did so with a kind of hypnotized masochism I am convinced 
that many of them were instinctively aware that they were 
being gypped. 

In lieu of buying any of the promoter's exquisitely en- 
graved optimism, I took him aside afterward and explained 
that as an advertising writer, engaged in advertising a nearby 
subdivision a strictly legitimate enterprise out of which 
many of the buyers made a good deal of money I, too, had 
a stake in the matter. He was only momentarily embarrassed. 
Later, on the basis of our professional kinship, I got to know 
him sufficiently so that, warmed by a little liquor, he became 
approximately confidential. 

"Brother," I remember his saying (He always insisted on 
calling me "brother") , "the technique of this racket is simple. 
Always tell the truth. Tell a lot of the truth. Tell a lot more 
of the truth than anybody expects you to tell. Never tell the 
whole truth." 

My colleague omitted one important element from his for- 
mula, the element of emotional conviction, which I had seen 
him manipulate with devastating effectiveness. It is observ- 
able that the most charlatans, like the best advertising men, 
are always more than half sincere and honest according to 
their lights. Sincerity is indeed a great virtue in an ad-man, 
and if one has it not, one must at least feign it. In this con- 
nection I recall the experience of a friend who took leave of 
the advertising business after some years of competent and 
highly paid employment in that business. Her employer, while 
acknowledging her competence, had this to say on the occasion 
of her resignation: 

"Miss , you are an able person and a good worker. 

In my judgment you have only one fault. You are not loyal 
to the things you don't believe in." 

At first glance this statement would seem to plunge us into 
the deep water of metaphysics. But the exegesis is simple. The 
possession of a personal code of ethics is a handicap in the 
practice of advertising-as-usual, the business being above all 
else impersonal, and in fact so far as possible de-humanized. 
One must be loyal to the process, which is a necessary part 
of the total economic process of competitive acquisition. The 
god of advertising is a jealous god and tolerates no competing 
loyalties, no human compunctions, no private impurities of 
will and judgment. 

The yoke of this jealous god chafes. How could it be other- 
wise, unless one were to suppose that advertising men are a 
selected class of knaves and rascals? They are, of course, noth- 
ing of the sort. They are average middle-class Americans, a 
bit more honest, I suspect, than the average banker or lawyer. 
In their personal lives they are likely to be kindly, truthful, 
just and generous. They would doubtless like to be equally 
truthful and just in the conduct of their business. But this, 
in the nature of the case, is impossible. The alternatives are 
either a cynical, realistic acceptance, or heroic gestures of 


rationalization. Hence the tremendous pother that advertising 
men make about "truth in advertising"; or at least, that is 
half of the explanation. The other half lies in the business-like 
necessity of keeping advertising in good repute; of nursing 
the health of that estimable goose, reader-confidence. Are they 
sincere, these advertising men who conduct this "truth-in- 
advertising" propaganda which is echoed and re-echoed by 
editors, publicists, economists, sociologists, preachers, poli- 
ticians? How can one tell, and does it really matter? 

Quite obviously, advertising is an enterprise in special plead- 
ing conducted outside the courts of law, with no effective 
rules of evidence, no expert representation for the consumer, 
no judge and no jury. To continue the analogy: in a court of 
law the accused swears to tell "the truth, the whole truth, 
and nothing but the truth," but if he is guilty nobody expects 
him to do so. The attorney for the defense is theoretically 
bound by his code of legal ethics, by penalties for contempt 
of court, suborning of witnesses, etc. In practice he usually 
makes out the best possible case for his client, using truth, 
half-truth and untruth with pragmatic impartiality. More- 
over, the judge and the jury expect him to do precisely that, 
just as they expect the State's attorney to use all possible means 
to secure a conviction. Judge and jury are in theory, and 
ordinarily in practice, disinterested. They balance one barrage 
of special pleading against the other, and so arrive at a verdict 
based on the evidence. 

It is generally recognized that a defense attorney does not 
tell the truth, or permit the truth to be told, if he thinks this 
truth would prejudice the case of his client. Why should it be 
supposed that an advertising writer, employed to sell goods 
for a manufacturer or retailer, can afford to tell the truth, 
the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and refrain from 
befuddling the judgment of his prospect? In practice he tells 
precisely as much of the truth as serves the interest of the 
advertiser, and precisely as much expedient half-truth and 

untruth as he believes he can get away with, without impair- 
ing "reader-confidence." If it seems profitable to scare, shame 
and flatter his victim he does so unhesitatingly. If bought - 
and-paid-for testimonials will do the trick many agencies buy 
them. If the fastidiousness or timidity of the publisher, the 
barking of the Federal Trade Commission and the Food and 
Drug Administration, or the protests of the reforming wing 
of the profession make it seem desirable to conceal the fact 
that these testimonials were bought and paid for, such a con- 
cealment is effected. 

Privately, the cynics of the profession will tell you that this 
is the prevailing practice, including their own practice. Hav- 
ing learned to digest their ethical sins, they have no need of 
rationalizing them. These cynics leave the "reform of adver- 
tising" to their more illusioned colleagues of whom they tend 
to be coarsely contemptuous. The plaint of the reformers 
vulgarly referred to by the cynics as the "Goose Girls" runs 
somewhat as follows: 

"The exaggerations, the sophistries, the purchased testi- 
monials, the vulgarities, the outright falsifications of current 
advertising are quite intolerable. Such practices are destroying 
the faith, the illusions, the very will-to-live of 'reader con- 
fidence/ They constitute unfair competition. The irrespon- 
sible agencies and advertisers who are guilty of such practices 
are endangering the stability, the good repute, and the profits 
of the advertising profession as a whole." 

To this plaint the cynics retort somewhat after this fashion: 

"You fellows prate a great deal about 'truth in advertis- 
ing.' What do you mean, truth, and what has the truth got 
to do with this racket? You say we are killing that estimable 
goose, reader-confidence, the goose that lays the golden eggs 
of advertising profits. Nonsense. It wasn't the goose that 
squawked. It was you. And the reason you squawked was not 
because you really give a whoop about 'truth,' but because we, 
with our more sophisticated, more scientific practice, have 


been chiselling into your business. We can prove and have 
proved that bought-and-paid-for testimonials sell two to one 
as compared to your inept cozenage, your primitive appeals 
to fear, greed and emulation. Furthermore, the ethics of adver- 
tising communications is relative and must be flexible. You 
have to take into account both the audience to which such 
communications are addressed and the object which these 
communications are intended to achieve, and demonstrably 
do achieve. 

"The audience, by and large, is composed of 1 4-year-old 
intelligences that have no capacity for weighing evidence, no 
experience in doing so, and no desire to do so. That goes 
equally for the readers of Vogue and the readers of True 
Romances. They are effectively gulled by bought-and-paid- 
for testimonials and even appear to take some pleasure in 
being gulled. They buy on the basis of such corrupt, false 
and misleading evidence, and this way of selling them costs 
less than any other way we have discovered. It is, you will 
grant, our duty as advertisers and as advertising agencies 
acting in behalf of our clients, to advertise as efficiently as 
possible, thereby reducing the sales overhead which must ulti- 
mately be charged to the consumer: thereby, incidentally, 
safeguarding and increasing the profits of the companies in 
which hundreds of thousands of widows and orphans, directly 
or indirectly, have invested their all. It is our duty to use every 
means we can devise, truthful or untruthful, ethical or un- 
ethical, to persuade consumers to buy, since only by increased 
buying can the country be pulled out of this depression. Ours 
is the higher morality. The burden of restoring prosperity is 
on our shoulders. We have seen our duty and we are doing it." 

Thus the cynics, in private. I must confess that I have de- 
rived far greater intellectual pleasure from the utterances of 
such hard-boiled devil's disciples than from the plaintive 
reproaches and lamentations of the Goose Girls. One could 
wish, indeed, that the cynics were more outspoken. Unfor- 


tunately, rationalization is the order of the day, in business 
as in politics. Every week sees another proclamation of the 
new order of probity upon which business is entering under 
the New Deal. Even Kenneth Collins. . . . One is disap- 
pointed to see so able and interesting an advertising man 
pledge himself to the Goose Girl Sorority. But consider the 
recent advertising of Gimbels department store in New York. 
Mr. Collins is Gimbels' advertising manager, having recently 
transferred his talents from Macy's across the street, where 
he had achieved a notable success by exploiting the slogan 
"It's smart to be thrifty." 

Mr. Collins, judged by his writings in the trade press, is 
something of a realist. One can only conclude therefore, that 
when he assumed his new duties, his survey of the situation 
convinced him that radical measures were needed for the 
effective exploitation of belief. Here is the advertisement in 
which the new "slant" was announced: 





Every intelligent person will join us in a great new campaign for 
truth in advertising. And by truth we mean the whole truth, and 
nothing but the truth exactly what you demand of a witness 
before a Senate Committee, or of your own children at home. 

Let us tell you a straight story. 

For years on end, we at Gimbels have been thinking that we were 
telling the truth. We have been supported in our belief by "the 
custom of the business," by "trade privilege," by reports from the 
Better Business Bureau of New York and by the comments of our 

But what we have been telling was, so to speak, "commercial 
truth." We would tell you, quite honestly, that a certain pair of 
curtains had been copied, in design, from a famous model, that the 


colors were pleasing, that the price was very low. Every word of this 
was scrupulously true. But we may have failed to say that the cur- 
tains would probably fade after one or two seasons of wear. 

In the same way, we would tell you that certain dresses had 
materials of good quality, that the styles were fresh, and the price 
very reasonable. Every word of this was scrupulously true. But we 
may have failed to add that the workmanship was by machine rather 
than by hand, and therefore the price was low. 

We believe it is time to take a revolutionary step, in line with the 
beliefs of the Administration, and of the opinions of intelligent 
people everywhere. We believe that old-fashioned "commercial 
truth" has no place in the New Deal. From now on, all Gimbels 
advertising (and every word told you by a Gimbel salesman or sales- 
woman) will be 

The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. 

How are we going to assure this? It is human to make mistakes, 
and we may make them. If so, we want them called to our atten- 
tion. We will gladly and willingly print corrections. But we believe 
we will make few errors, for this reason: as a check on our store 
buyers, and our advertising writers, we have employed the services 
of a famous outside research laboratory 



to make frequent scientific tests of the materials, workmanship and 
value of the goods we offer for sale. This is one of the best equipped 
laboratories of its kind in the United States, with a reputation of 
many years of service to many of the largest industrial corporations 
in this country. They are experts in textiles, and chosen for this 
reason, because 80% of our merchandise is either textile or de- 
pendent on textile for wear. 

They have no human or partisan reason to give us the benefit of 
any doubt. They will give us impartial tests and reports. 

Please read our advertising in today's News, Journal, Sun and 
World-Telegram. Bear in mind when you read the advertising of 
this firm that 


Note the astute dedication to intelligence, morality and unity 
of interest which is implicit in the first paragraph. Just what 
is the nature of this "revolutionary step, in line with the be- 
liefs of the Administration, and of the opinions of intelli- 
gent people everywhere," which Gimbels, under the leader- 
ship of Mr. Collins, has taken? 

Instead of contenting itself, as in the past, with telling 
that part of the truth which might be expected to promote 
sales, and suppressing the part which would tend to discour- 
age or prevent sales, the store pledges itself to "tell the whole 
truth." For example, whereas it had previously described a 
piece of cloth truthfully as being good value, it would add 
in the future, the further truth that it would quickly fade; 
it would say that a raincoat, while worth the price asked, 
would last only a year. 

One readily admits that this does represent a certain gain 
for the consumer a gain brought about either by the evan- 
gelical enthusiasm of Gimbels and Mr. Collins for the New 
Deal, or, possibly, by the coincident collapse of the con- 
sumer's confidence and the consumer's pocketbook, and the 
consequent stiffening of his sales resistance. Mr. Collins is to 
be credited for his astuteness in recognizing and dealing with 
this condition. In fairness one should also credit him with a 
personal, though far from unique preference for fair deal- 
ing, as against the customary chicaneries of salesmanship and 

But and this but is important Gimbels is a profit mo- 
tivated corporation, engaged, like any other business, in buy- 
ing as cheaply as possible and selling as dearly as possible. 
The Industrial By-Products and Research Corporation of 
Philadelphia will undoubtedly tell the whole truth and noth- 
ing but the truth to Gimbels, because it is employed by Gim- 
bels, and, in respect to this specific service at least, is respon- 
sible to Gimbels and to Gimbels alone. But will Gimbels pass 
on this whole truth and nothing but the truth to its cus- 


tomers and to the readers of its advertising? The whole truth, 
including the truth about Gimbels' profit-margin all the 
data which the customer would require in order to measure 
value? No such proposal is made. At this point the customer 
is protected by the competition of other merchants and by 
that alone. 

No, what we have here is a lot of the truth, more of the 
truth than anybody expected Gimbels to tell, but not the 
whole truth. It is not in the nature of profit-motivated busi- 
ness to tell the whole truth. Gimbels is paid by its customers, 
but is responsible ultimately, not to its customers, but to its 
stockholders. Hence the pressure of the economic determi- 
nants is here as always and everywhere toward the exploitation 
of the customer up to the tolerance limit of the traffic. Pos- 
sibly this tolerance limit is narrowing. I am not sure. 

Mr. Collins' demarche is designed to produce customers by 
manufacturing a "systematized illusion" to the effect that 
business is not business, and that the customer, on entering 
Gimbels, can safely put aside and forget the maxim, caveat 
emptor, which is the only ultimate protection of the buyer 
in a profit-motivated economy. 

Suppose that Mr. Collins* readers are convinced; that they 
do stop worrying about whether they are being cheated or 
not. They would like to do this because it would certainly 
mean a great saving of time, money and energy. But what 
happens if they do? They find that Gimbels' stock in trade 
consists not merely of goods but of "systematized illusions" 
built up by decades of advertising and capitalized in trade- 
marks which add a considerable percentage to the cost of the 
product and a still higher percentage to the price of the 
product. In the drug and cosmetics department they would 
find that the price of the products offered for sale frequently 
represents about 90% of advertising bunk and 10% of mer- 
chandize. Will Gimbels, which is pledged to tell the truth, * 
the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, tell them that? 

No. Does the Industrial By-Products and Research Corpora- 
tion know this part of the truth? It either knows it or could 
easily learn it. Is this truth of interest and value to the cus- 
tomer? It certainly is. Then why doesn't Gimbels buy this 
truth from its research company and pass it on to its cus- 
tomers? Because Gimbels is a profit-motivated corporation 
responsible not to its customers but to its stockholders. Be- 
cause the manufacturers of these absurdly priced and inad- 
equately described products have by advertising them, built 
up systematized illusions to the effect that they are worth 
the price asked for them. Because Gimbels, which is not in 
business for its health or for the health of its customers, is 
obliged both to carry these products, and not tell the truth 
about them, or lose an opportunity for making a profit 
usually a high profit on their sale. What would happen if 
Gimbels started telling the truth about these products? The 
manufacturers would probably bring legal or economic pres- 
sure to bear, sufficient to cause Gimbels to cease and desist. 
Where can you learn the truth about such products? From 
Consumers' Research, or for that matter, from almost any 
honest testing laboratory you chose to employ. Why does Con- 
sumers' Research really tell the truth, the whole truth, and 
nothing but the truth, to the best of its ability? Because it is 
employed by and responsible to its subscribing members its 
customers. Why doesn't Gimbels tell that kind of truth to its 
customers? Because it is not responsible to its customers. It is 
responsible to its stockholders. 

It will perhaps be argued that the drug and cosmetic de- 
partment is exceptional. It is somewhat exceptional, but by 
no means unique. The breakfast cereal business is also pri- 
marily an advertising business, and many of the packaged 
"values" offered by Gimbels grocery department are chiefly 
air, paper, cellophane and advertising. 

It will be further argued that these areas of exploitation, 
entrenched in the systematized illusions built up in the pub- 


lie mind by advertising, are outside Gimbels' control. But is 
Gimbels completely frank about its own "house products"? 
If so, Mr. Collins can claim a real revolution. The ordinary 
practice of the retailer in substituting a house product for an 
advertised product is to take advantage of the inflated illusion 
of value built up by advertising. The house product may be, 
and frequently is, as good or better than the advertised prod- 
uct. The price asked for the house product is ordinarily just 
enough less than the price of the advertised product to make 
the substitution acceptable to the customer. By crawling un- 
der the tent of inflated "values," erected by advertisers, re- 
tailers are able to make excellent profit margins through such 
substitutions in the case of such a product as face cream, 
margins running up to three hundred and four hundred per 
cent. Wouldn't it be wonderful, Mr. Collins, if Gimbels made 
up a list of such products and undertook to sell them for ap- 
proximately reasonable prices? Would this be in line with 
the beliefs of the Administration, or would it come under the 
head of "destructive price cutting"? In any case, wouldn't it 
be nice for the consumer and just possibly good business 
for you? 

Sadly, one begins to suspect that the able, intelligent, hard- 
boiled Mr. Collins has become just another Goose Girl. The 
morale of the geese is terrible these days. Mr. Collins is re- 
sponsible for a large flock, and as a practical advertising man 
he realises that he must do something about it. Hence, with 
his left hand, he launches "a great new campaign for truth in 
advertising." But his right hand is also busy. Alongside this 
pronouncement "Gimbels Tells the Whole Truth," we find 
another Gimbel advertisement headed "Sky's the Limit!" In 
this advertisement the reflexes of the reader are shrewdly con- 
ditioned to the need of and purchase of a collection of beach 
chairs, outdoor tables, etc., for use on the roofs of city apart- 
ments a new market. This would seem to be very competent 
advertising-as-usual in the modern chatty manner, designed to 

compete with the interest of the adjoining news columns. It is 
currently argued in the trade that this is good "educational" 
advertising because it manufactures customers. From the 
consumer's point of view it would be possible to contend that 
what the consumer is interested in is a concise description of 
the product and why it is worth its price; that the chatter, 
being neither news nor information, is a tiresome imperti- 
nence, intolerable in a civilized community. But then, if the 
consumers had that much sense, they would no longer be 
geese. So that Mr. Collins' big-hearted services as Goose Girl 
and customer producer would no longer be required. 

This example and that of the Gillette Safety Razor Com- 
pany which is examined in the following chapter, have been 
selected because in both cases the claim of truth-telling is ex- 
plicitly made. But for the fact that the American pseudo- 
culture is based on a structure of make-believe, which, in 
turn rests on layer after layer of the accumulated make-be- 
lieve of past decades and past centuries, it would not even 
be necessary to explode such claims for it would not pay to 
make them. Sufficient to say that when an advertiser takes 
the name of Truth, it is in the nature of the case that he 
should do so in vain, and with either conscious or uncon- 
scious hypocrisy; that the coincident appeal to, and exploita- 
tion of, reader-confidence is merely one of the necessary 
techniques of advertising mendacity-as-usual. The documen- 
tation of this mendacity has been sufficiently attended to by 
Messrs. Chase and Schlink in 'Your Money's Worth, by 
Messrs. Schlink and Kallet in 100,000,000 Guinea Pigs and 
by the run of the mill prosecutions by the Federal Trade 
Commission, by the seizures of the Food and Drug Adminis- 
tration and by the exposures of quack proprietaries by the 
American Medical Association. 

The conclusion which these massive accumulations of data 
add up to in the minds of good citizens in and out of the 
advertising business is that the abuses of advertising should 

be corrected; that Congress should pass another law; indeed, 
as I write this, Congress seems likely to pass another law, 
which will be discussed in the concluding chapters of this 
book. As a former advertising man, made familiar by years 
of practice with the various techniques of the profession, the 
naivete of this conclusion leaves me groaning with despond- 
ency. Congress can and probably will legislate itself blue in 
the face, without changing an iota of the basic economic 
and cultural determinants, and so long as these determinants 
continue to operate the exploitation of the consumer will 
simply, in response to criticism, spin the kaleidoscope of tech- 
nical adaptations. To put it more brutally, advertising will 
merely find new ways of manufacturing suckers and trim- 
ming them. Mendacity is a function of trade and observes no 
ethical limits just as military warfare observes no ethical 
limits. Advertising is an exploitation of belief. The raw ma- 
terial of this traffic is not merely products and services but 
human weakness, fear and credulity. In the end, as Veblen 
pointed out in the penetrating footnote already quoted, it 
becomes a "trading on that range of human infirmities which 
flowers in devout observances and fruits in the psychopathic 

To do them justice, the Goose Girls the reformers have 
come to constitute almost a sub-profession of the profession 
itself are in many cases entirely sincere, since the ideas of a 
unified, functional society is something undreamed of in 
their philosophies, or in the textbooks of orthodox laissez 
faire economists for that matter. Few of them are as logical 
or as frank as the banker, Paul M. Mazur, who in his book, 
American Prosperity, Its Causes and Consequences, has this 
to say about the "Truth in Advertising" ballyhoo: 

But should advertising ever limit itself under judicial oath to 
tell the whole truth, unvarnished and unadorned, woe betide con- 
fidence in America's products and industry. ... If the whole 


truth were really told, the career of advertising would degenerate 
from the impact of a powerful hydraulic hammer to a mildly re- 
proving weak slap on the wrist. 

So far as the writer is aware, the Better Business Bureau 
has never denounced Mr. Mazur for this heresy has never 
even given him a "mildly reproving weak slap on the wrist." 





The Truth About the Shavers 

SOME time during the decade following the Civil War, and 
for reasons unknown, whiskers began to go out in America. 
But this fashion mutation ran counter to the conservatism of 
nature, according to which whiskers continued to come in. 
Thus, by the mysterious power of fashion, a great new in- 
dustry was created, giving employment to millions of people, 
and carrying the banner of progress to the most remote cor- 
ners of the inhabited globe. 

It was the period during which the major vested interests 
of the American capitalist economy were being parceled out 
and consolidated. Railroads, coal, oil. And now, chins. Nude 
chins, or rather, the dynamic, progress-generating conflict 
between biology and creative myth, expressed in the man- 
made taboo on whiskers. 

The ground-plan of this industry, as laid down by the 
founding fathers, bears the unmistakable mark of genius, com- 
bining as it does subtlety and a certain chaste and beautiful 
simplicity. The annual wheat harvest is worth so much, in 
plus or minus figures mostly minus in recent years. The 
daily whisker harvest is worth so much always plus, the 
market being certain and the crop utterly reliable and inde- 
pendent of the acts of God. Moreover, by an application on 
a grandiose scale of the Tom Sawyer theory of business enter- 
prise, the harvest hands actually pay for bringing in a crop 
which in itself is worth nothing. 


Nobody knows who started the taboo on whiskers. Not 
even a wooden cross marks the unknown grave of this un- 
known soldier. But greatness was indisputably his. He changed 
the face of the human race. He kept Satan at bay by furnish- 
ing work for idle hands to do all male hands, every morn- 
ing, three hundred and sixty-five days of the year. He mocked 
at natural law. He refashioned the civilized ideal of masculine 
beauty. He added uncounted millions to the wealth of this 
and other countries, expressed in stock and bond "securities," 
and in deeds and titles to physical properties. The religion 
which he founded spread quickly into all lands; it brought 
light and leading to the wandering tribes of darkest Africa; 
the Igorrotes came down out of their trees and rejoiced in the 
new gospel; even the Eskimos within the Arctic Circle ate 
less blubber and turned to higher things. 

No other religion can claim an equal number of adherents. 
Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Atheism have all 
slain their millions. But the Shavers are as the sands of the 
sea, and death would be too good for them. It would not be 
good business. 

Moreover, as contrasted with the faltering faith of these 
other decadent sects, the Shavers prove their loyalty by the 
punctilious observance of a daily ritual and by regular tithes 
contributed to the coffers of the True Church. 

As already noted, the founder of this church is unknown. 
Quite possibly, he died in poverty and obscurity. But the 
Great Apostle of the Shavers was King C. Gillette. He be- 
came famous and rich. Quite probably his portrait has been 
more widely disseminated than that of any other religious 
leader in the history of the world. When he died he left a 
large fortune, made out of nothing; made out of "such stuff 
as dreams are made on." 

The writer is a Shaver and will probably die a Shaver. Why, 
he does not know. His father was a Shaver. The only whiskers 
in his immediate family environment adorned the chin of his 


maternal grandfather, who was some special kind of Shouting 
Methodist, I believe. At the age of ninety, he was still strok- 
ing those whiskers and singing lustily "There is a Green Hill 
Far Away." There was also old Maginnis, the Celery King, 
but he was a very dirty and eccentric old man, whom the 
Shavers used as a Horrible Example. 

The myth had been invented some years before I was born, 
and during my childhood the taboo on whiskers became in- 
creasingly strict. The faces of the young men especially were 
vigilantly watched for signs of heresy. Whiskers were derided 
as a mark of effeminacy. Even mustaches were considered a 
dangerous deviation from the Pure Faith. 

On my sixteenth birthday, my father presented me with a 
Gillette Safety Razor, and from that day on I observed the 
ritual punctiliously, although during the early months the 
harvest was meagre. The blades, I noted, were marked, "Not 
To Be Re-Sharpened." This I took to be an Article of the 
Faith, which I scrupulously obeyed, although it meant that, 
since money was scarce, a package of blades had to last at 
least a year. The first thirty days were the hardest. After that 
the frictional heat generated by repeated scraping was suffi- 
cient to cauterize my wounds. 

I remember that my grandfather, observing the lamentable 
condition of my chin, once urged that I see if his knife hone 
wouldn't help those blades a bit. I repelled the suggestion 
with scorn. Grandfather and I were in opposite camps. He 
was a Shouting Methodist and a bearded ancient. I was an 
atheist and a Young Shaver. 

The effects of this early religious training still linger. At 
various times I have wondered what I would look like in my 
natural whiskered state. But what would people say? And 
what would happen to my job? And how would my best 
girl feel about it? So the next morning I would turn a deaf 
ear to those perverse curiosities, and perform again the ritual 
of the Gospel According to King C. Gillette. 


I am reconciled now. Never while I live shall I look in the 
mirror and see the image of myself as nature intended me to 
be. I am not myself. I am not my own master. I am, like 
millions of my fellow men, a Shaver. 

I remember that shortly before the war, there was a minor 
outcropping of heresy. The Spirit of Doubt was abroad in the 
land, and the morals of the young were being sapped by the 
insidious infection of a materialist culture. Once I recall see- 
ing a young man under thirty, doubtless in a spirit of bravado, 
enter a public restaurant looking like the portraits of Alex- 
ander Dowie. Quietly but firmly the waiters, with stern, set, 
smooth-shaven faces, put him out into the night. Such devil's 
disciples were rare, but unquestionably the minds of the 
people were troubled. One shrinks from imagining what might 
have happened but that, just at the crucial moment, the 
President declared war. Force without stint. The Huns were 
at the gate. The whiskered Bolsheviks of Russia were attack- 
ing the very foundations of civilization. 

In the tremendous outpouring of religious faith and de- 
votion that followed, all doubts were swept aside. And the 
True Church did not fail to do its bit. Sitting in solemn con- 
clave in Boston the synod of the Church decreed that not one 
American doughboy should lose his immortal soul for lack 
of proper equipment to perform the ritual. 

I have reason to know that the Church made good on this 
patriotic commitment. Along with two million other Shavers 
I went, as a private soldier, to France. I knew what I was 
fighting for. Those whiskered Bolsheviks, and those bearded 
German professors who had signed the manifesto pledging 
science and scholarship to the aid of the Huns! 

Before I sailed I was presented at various times with eight 
separate and complete shaving kits. Three of them were the 
official equipment of the True Church; the others were put 
out by various dissenting sects which, however, had made 
common cause with King C. Gillette in the Great Crusade. 


Since I regarded these gifts as church property I preserved 
them carefully, although the transportation problem was 
difficult for a private soldier. My pack had only limited ca- 
pacity, and in the aggregate this plethora of equipment added 
quite a bit to the load I staggered under on long hikes. With 
the best will in the world, I found that they tended to drop 
out of the pack, to fall into mess kettles, and otherwise dis- 
appear. But I still had six when I sailed. 

Before I left the boat I was presented with three more. At 
the base hospital the Y.M.C.A. secretary insisted on giving 
me another pair. I attempted to protest, but his face froze, 
and I took them. This was getting a bit thick I felt. My face 
was o.k. I shaved every morning, in cold water at that. What 
was I expected to do with those eleven kits? Then a great 
idea occurred to me. I would give them away. Besides doing 
my bit at the front, I would enlist my services in the Prop- 
aganda of the Faith, using the materials with which the Church 
had provided me. 

I gave one to a bearded priest who was serving as bran- 
cardier with a French ambulance section to which my unit 
was attached. He would only take one, and I was a little sad- 
dened later when I found him, still jolly and hirsute, using 
the blade as a nail cutter. Except for one bearded old peas- 
ant woman who chased me out of her bistro, I had better 
luck, curiously, with the women. I gave six separate shaving 
kits to six different marraines, chiefly laundresses and bar- 
maids in French villages behind the lines. The women shaved 
too, it seemed. Obviously, the war was going better than I 
had thought it was. 

However, I made no real headway, because more shaving 
kits kept coming in, from the Y.M.C.A. and through the 
mails from solicitous maiden aunts at home. I broke down 
gradually and took to leaving them in the pig pens where we 
occasionally lodged, and where, in the nature of things, they 
would be of no service to the Cause. Even so, I reflected, I 


was better off than the mules. The quartermaster's depart- 
ment, I was informed, had been supplied with 300,000 
branding irons for the mules. I wondered what the mules 
would do with them. Provided there were any mules. In six 
months at the front I never saw one; nothing but a herd of 
Algerian donkeys, once, which rapidly disappeared into the 
French soupe. But if there had been mules doubtless they 
would have branded themselves thoroughly. The Church, I 
reflected, was not alone in its outpouring of patriotic service. 
With all this I can testify that the morale of the American 
troops was high. We shaved. We shaved almost every day. 
We shaved with ditch water. We shaved with luke warm 
coffee. After excusable omissions of the ritual, caused by duty 
at the front, we shaved twice. For God. For Country. For 
King C. Gillette. 

What happened after the Armistice was a different matter. 
As I look back, it would seem that the whole magnificent 
structure of American idealism crumbled almost overnight. 

It was a fact, a regrettable fact, but a fact, that the chins 
of the American doughboys were pretty sore. They started 
wagging. Some of the things they said I hesitate even now to 

They said they had too damned many shaving kits. They 
regretted that the envelopes protecting the blades were not 
larger so that the paper might be used for purposes for which 
the quartermaster's department provided no regular sup- 
plies. They pointed out that whereas every soldier was 
equipped with a dozen or so of shaving kits of assorted brands, 
none of these kits was equipped with more than one blade. 
The Y.M.C.A. gave you razors but no blades. You had to 
buy the blades. And the blades were extraordinarily dull. I 
remember that one godless doughboy asserted in plain words 
that they were made dull on purpose. Nothing happened to 
him. In due time he was honorably discharged from the serv- 
ice and I met him later in civil life. The doughboys talked a 


good deal about those blades. Sometimes, in the evenings, 
there was enough chin music of this sort to drown out the 
regimental band. Always, in such sessions, the name of King 
C. Gillette would be intimately and often obscenely coupled 
with the Y.M.C.A. 

It was probably just shell shock the reaction from the 
hardships and dangers of the front. For myself, although a 
little disheartened, I could excuse the talk. It was the things 
they did. They took to shying shaving kits at truant pigs. 
The main street of a French village where we were quartered 
became littered with them and the Mayor protested. The 
lieutenant ordered out a detail, and a dozen men faced court- 
martial rather than move a step. Nothing happened. The 
lieutenant, it soon appeared, was growing a beard. 

I am a good Shaver still, but naturally I did not go through 
this experience unscathed. And in the years that followed 
the Armistice I could not help observing that the Church 
seemed to be slipping. The phrase "not to be re-sharpened" 
was no longer engraved on the blades a doctrinal concession 
to modernism for which the official church was to pay 
heavily, for innumerable re-sharpening contraptions were 
soon on the market and some of them were more or less 
effective. Meanwhile, the chin music increased in volume and 
shrillness until at last the Church was obliged openly to take 
the field against the growing heresy. 

In 1926 the Gillette Safety Razor Company spent nearly a 
million dollars in newspaper and magazine advertising. The 
copy was moderate in tone, attempting to reason the children 
back into the fold. The blades had been improved. They were 
continually being improved. The mass production process by 
which they were produced was incredibly accurate and was 
checked by innumerable inspections of the finished product. 
The steel used was the best and most expensive tool steel ob- 
tainable. True believers should understand, when they ex- 
perienced pain and consequent doubt in connection with 

performing the daily ritual of the Faith, that it wasn't the 
blade's fault. It might be the weather. Or the stiffness of the 
communicant's bristles. Or the hardness of the water. Or the 
temporary and excusable hardness of the communicant's 
heart, induced by a late party the night before. 

Reading this campaign I knew in my heart that it marked 
the beginning of the end. Not so would old King C. Gillette 
have spoken in the great days before that erratic genius sold 
out his interests to the bankers, and went gaga as amateur 
economist and world -saver. The Church had become rich and 
soft. Where the Great Apostle had once peddled his invention 
at ten dollars a kit from door to door, the degenerate princes 
of the Church now gave the razors away with a tube of shav- 
ing cream. True, the empire was now huge, and rich tribute 
in the form of profits on blades flowed in from every quar- 
ter of the globe. But godless men, actuated by motives of 
material gain and without license of the True Church, had 
actually ventured to manufacture blades suitable for the of- 
ficial razor and offer them for sale in the marts of trade. 
And to such a low ebb had the morale of the faithful sunk 
that more and more these blades were purchased and used. 
So that the prestige of the True Church was shaken and its 
tithes reduced. 

Again the following year the Church struck out with a 
huge advertising campaign. But again the note of authority 
was missing from its pronouncements. The blades too, lacked 
edge, or at least the chins of the faithful continued wagging 
to that effect. This heresy was encouraged by a subversive 
organization known as Consumer's Research, which informed 
its subscribers that some of the competing blades were per- 
haps a little better than the official equipment not much, 
but a little. Other insidious rumors went forth; one to the 
effect that the Church had even gone so far as to manufac- 
ture and sell, under a shameful disguise from which the face 
of the Great Apostle had been removed, cheap and inferior 


blades designed to compete both with the mavericks and with 
the official product. 

Day after day this subversive chin music gained in volume 
and in ominousness. Meanwhile a major crisis approached in 
the internal economy of the church. By virtue of the original 
patents issued by the State, the gospel according to Gillette 
had become an Established Church and the Gillette Com- 
pany enjoyed a monopoly in the sale of the patented razor. 
This greatly helped in keeping the ritual pure, as also in the 
collection of tithes. But within a year these patents would 
expire. Chaos, certainly would ensue unless somehow, some- 
where, the officialdom of the Church could muster a little 

Long conferences were held, and at last a decision was 
reached. The Church would apply for patents on an improved 
razor and an improved blade, which latter would fit the old 
razor also. But since it would be patented, the conscienceless 
mercenaries who already infested the market would be 
stopped from imitating it. Meanwhile, the Church would put 
forth huge quantities of the new razor, offered to the faithful 
free with a tube of shaving cream. In a short space of time 
the new razors would displace the old and since they required 
the new blades which only the official Church would be en- 
titled to make and sell, the elders of the Church would once 
more sit at ease in Zion and further diversion of the tithes 
would be prevented. 

Everything went through as scheduled except those essen- 
tial iron clad patents. By some fluke or treachery, just before 
the Church's New Deal for the Shavers was announced the 
market was flooded with blades which fitted the new razor 
perfectly, as well as the old razor. And the State remained 
neutral. And the Elders rent their garments. And the Shavers? 
It is appalling to realize how little the Shavers cared about 
the whole matter except that, finding the heretical blades to 
be of reasonably good quality, they bought them in great 

quantities. So that the Elders were obliged to seek out the 
.heretic, and purchase his business for a large, a very large 
sum of money. And a little later, after the stock market 
crash, the stockholders of the Church questioned the states- 
manship of the elders in fact raised hell. So did a hundred 
circumcised and uncircumcised owners of production ma- 
chinery that could turn out blades, for countless new brands 
appeared on the market. 

The later history of the Church is almost too melancholy to 
record. Remembering the genius of the Great Apostle, the 
Elders sought out one of the most famous Doctors of Adver- 
tising Homiletics in America and told him to launch a new 
advertising campaign. He did so. He gave the Faithful the old 
time religion plus a dash of Listerined Freud. "Am I losing my 
husband's love?" (Picture of weeping wife; copy plucks at 
the conscience of the husband who is forgetful of the morn- 
ing ritual; the cheek you love to touch.) 

Too late. It didn't work. So then what did those dumb 
elders do? The Truth! The Truth, no less, with the elders 
themselves beating their breasts and crying "Mea Culpa." 
The truth being a confession that for a while the official 
blades were not so good, but now they're much better, please, 
and we're honest men and need the money. 

The truth, forsooth! Since when has a self-respecting 
church felt called upon to defend its divinely inspired truth 
against the hecklers of the market place? 

The official blades are better now, they say. And they cost 
just about half what they formerly cost. I don't care. I am a 
Shaver, a devout Shaver, if you like, but after all that has 
happened, I can no longer be a faithful churchman. I buy 
any old blades. A while back I bought a re-sharpening con- 
traption and it worked more or less. And just the other day 
I got out grandfather's hone which he specifically bequeathed 
to me. It is a good hone. It has been a good hone since 1833. 
In fact it does a better job, with less trouble than the con- 


traption. I suspect that there are by this time thousands like 
me. Ours is indeed a faithless generation. And the Church 
does so little for us. Beards are coming in again, I suspect. 
Some of my best friends are sporting mustaches. And one of 
them has a red beard a foot long says it prevents colds. 

Well, one man can't be expected to stand alone against 
these heresies. And the Church is impotent, or at least silent, 
while the evil grows. There is House of David, for example. 
And Senator J. Ham Lewis. And Chief Justice Hughes. Old 
King C. Gillette would have known how to meet that issue 
like a man and a Shaver. But if the Church has ever issued a 
bull against Justice Hughes I have no record of it. 

Now that the Church has lost its grip, I suppose it's a mat- 
ter for the NRA. 

A great industry is at stake. The livelihoods of thousands 
of workers hang in the balance. Congress ought to pass a law. 





WE HAVE seen that, since advertising is essentially a traffic in 
belief, the profession habitually takes the name of Truth, 
though usually in vain. But since Beauty is Truth, Truth, 
Beauty, the profession is also forever rendering vain oblations 
at the shrine of Beauty. 

This worship has two major phases. The first is the manu- 
facture, by advertising, of successive exploitable concepts of 
feminine beauty, of beauty in clothes, houses, furniture, 
automobiles, kitchens, everything. The second phase of this 
worship has to do with the ad-man's view of his own craft, 
and would appear to represent, in part at least, a perversion 
of the normal human instinct of workmanship. 

From some reason it is thought necessary for the ad-man, 
not merely to sell the idea of beauty for profit, but to sell 
beauty beautifully. Why? Is there not something excessive 
and pathological about advertising's will-to-be-beautiful? 

It is contended that an attractively designed advertisement 
of an allegedly beautiful toilet seat is more effective than an 
ugly advertisement of the same object. But this has never 
been proved conclusively. On the contrary, there are many 
examples of very ugly advertising which have been excep- 
tionally effective. Yet the desire for beauty in advertising is 
inextinguishable and has more or less had its way. Fifteen 
years ago the well-designed newspaper or magazine adver- 
tisement was the exception; today it is the rule. Has the ef- 


fectiveness of advertising increased proportionately? On the 
contrary, it has decreased, and one of the factors in this de- 
cline is undoubtedly the increased cost of producing this 
economically superfluous beauty in advertising. In any case, 
beauty of design or text is only one of the many variable, 
more or less unknown and unpredictable factors in the sell- 
ing relationship established by the advertisement. And fi- 
nally, it would be easy to show that even in 1929, when artists 
were often paid $2,000 for a single painting, photographers 
$500 for a single print and typographers equally fancy prices 
even in the heyday of art-in-advertising, cheap and ugly 
advertisements frequently sold goods just as well or better. 
And today, what could be uglier than the inane, story-in- 
pictures advertisements which sell Lux, Fleischmann's Yeast, 
Lifebuoy Soap, and other products with demonstrated ef- 

There is, of course, a recognized and demonstrated com- 
mercial justification for using expensive "art" and expensive 
typography in the advertising of certain luxury products 
such as perfumes, de luxe motor cars and the like. The prin- 
ciple is that of "conspicuous waste," used to create an am- 
bience, a prestige for the product, which will lift it above 
the rational level of pride competition. The familiar snob 
appeal, applied to such prosaic commodities as fifteen-cent 
cigarettes and twenty-five-cent collars, also accounts for a 
good deal of conspicuous expenditure in advertising "art," 
and up to a certain point, this is commercially justifiable. Yet 
it remains true, as many hard-boiled professionals have pointed 
out, that beauty has been permitted to run hog-wild in con- 
temporary advertising practice. Carroll Rheinstrom, Adver- 
tising Manager of Liberty, was recently quoted in Advertis- 
ing and Selling as believing that 90% of current advertising 
is waste because of the ad-man's pre-occupation with his own 
techniques, to the exclusion of practical economic considera- 


No, the logical economic explanations don't make sense. 
Advertising today, while anything but efficient, is far bet- 
ter designed and written than it needs to be; obviously it 
costs far, far more to produce than it ought to cost. Part 
of the explanation, I think, lies in a private impurity of the 
advertising craftsman; he is more interested in beauty than 
he is in selling. For him the advertisement is a thing-in-itself . 
Highly developed craftsmanship in the graphic arts and in 
writing, enormous expenditures of mechanical skill, are de- 
posited at the shrine not of Mammon but of Beauty. And all 
pretty much in vain. The art isn't really art. The writing 
isn't really writing. And frequently the worst "art" and the 
worst "writing" sell products better than the best art and 
the best writing. 

Yes, the explanation of this curious phenomenon may well 
be that advertising, since it doesn't make sense in economic, 
social or human terms, jumps right through the Looking- 
Glass and becomes a thing-in-itself! 

It takes a nai've eye to see this. I had to have it pointed out 
to me by a poet friend who makes his living writing prose 
for a very expensive magazine. He picked up a copy of the 
publication and pointed to a Camel cigarette advertisement 
in color. How much did that cost, he asked? I estimated rap- 
idly: $ 1,000 for the drawing, add $200 for the time of the 
art director and an assistant, $400 for the color plates, $100 
for typography, $100 more for miscellaneous mechanical 
charges, $100 for copy, $300 pro-rated for executive and 
management charges. Total for one advertisement, not count- 
ing the cost of the space, about $2,300. 

"Well," commented my poet friend, "that's the end-result, 
isn't it? That's why Kentucky planters go bankrupt growing 
tobacco, why negro and white share croppers sweat, starve 
and revolt, why millions of men and women diligently smoke 
billions of cigarettes all so that this magnificent advertise- 
ment might be born and live its little hour." 


My friend was treating himself to a little poetic license, of 
course. But the more I stared at the phenomenon, the more I 
became convinced that it made just as much sense upside 
down as right side up. And the more I reflected upon the 
role of the "creative worker" in advertising, the more I came 
to suspect skullduggery of an obscure, unconscious sort. Os- 
tensibly these craftsmen are employed to write words and 
draw lines that will persuade their fellow man to buy certain 
branded cigarettes, soaps, toothpastes, gadgets, etc. But do 
these fellows really give a whoop about these gadgets and 
gargles or whether people buy them or not? Did I, when I 
was a member in good standing of the profession? 

Never a whoop nor a whisper. What I cared about was my 
craft, and that is what every genuine craftsman cares about 
that and nothing else. Each piece of copy was a thing-in- 
itself. I did a workmanlike job, not for dear old Heinz, or 
Himmelschlussel, or Rockefeller, or whomsoever I was serv- 
ing indirectly, but for myself; because it was pleasant to do 
a competent job and unpleasant to do a slovenly job. I was 
aware, of course, that Mr. Rockefeller, via the agency, was 
paying me, and I tried not to get fired. But I never worried 
about my duty to Mr. Rockefeller and to his oils and gad- 
gets. The prospect, the customer? I was a bit sorry for the 
customer, and tried to let him off with as little bamboozle- 
ment as possible. But my real loyalty was to the Word, to 
the materials of my craft. Loyalty to the Word writing a 
competent advertisement sometimes meant being pretty 
rough and mendacious with the customer. I couldn't help 
that. I was carried away by the fury of composition, just as 
a good Turkish swordsman becomes carried away in his pro- 
fessional dealings with the Armenians. 

But chiefly, I think, my indomitable instinct of workman- 
ship was hard on my employer. Unconsciously I sabotaged 
his interests continuously. I wrote clean, lucid prose, when 
the illiterate screed that the advertiser wanted to print would 


probably have sold more goods. When my immediate su- 
perior plaintively objected that what I wrote was too good 
for the audience to which it was addressed, I was indignant 
and recalcitrant. Ordered to rewrite the advertisement, I 
seized the opportunity to bring it closer to my standard of 
craftsmanship, which had nothing to do with commerce. If 
the client objected, I bullied him if possible, and otherwise 
made a minimum of grudging concessions. 

A percentage of the copy writers in advertising agencies 
are craftsmen. I have known scores of them. They felt as I 
felt, and consciously or unconsciously, they did what I did. 
The artists were even more obsessed and obstreperous. As I 
knew them, their disinterestedness in the profits of Mr. Rocke- 
feller was extreme. They were interested in drawing pretty 
pictures. They drew them as well as they could, regardless of 
whom and of what? Regardless of the advertiser and what 
he had asked them to draw. Naturally, the picture had to 
convey a sales message, and they chattered a great deal about 
"putting a selling punch" into their pictures. But I noticed 
that the best of them became so interested in the design 
and the drawing that they frequently left no room for 
the copy or even for the trade-mark of the manufacturer. 
(This last I suspect was a trick of the Freudian unconscious; 
the trade-mark was resented because it was the signature of 
the advertiser.) When account executives and advertisers re- 
pined at such extravagant oblations at the shrine of Beauty, 
the artists were haughtier even than the copy writers. And 
since the average American business man has a puzzled and 
diffident reverence for art, coupled with an enormous igno- 
rance of the nature of artists, their motivations and tech- 
niques, these so-called "commercial" artists did then and still 
do get away with an astonishing amount of sheer mayhem and 
murder. The writers, too, though to a less degree, because most 
advertisers can read and write. The technique is less strange 
and the technician correspondingly less formidable. All ac- 


count executives in agencies, and worse still, all advertisers, 
have an obscene itch to write themselves. Consequently the 
copy writer must sternly and vigilantly keep these vulgarians 
in their places. I always considered it to be my duty to stand 
on my dignity as a "genius" the word still goes big in the 
world of commerce, especially on the West Coast and epater 
these bourgeois, partly as a matter of self-respect, and partly 
as a practical measure of professional and personal aggrandize- 

Commercial artists and writers indeed! Art for art's sake 
was our motto, and to hell with the advertiser. I can remem- 
ber not one, but half a dozen times when an advertisement 
was written, illustrated, set up in exquisite type, and de- 
posited in proof form on the account executive's desk almost 
ninety-nine and three-quarters per cent pure. True, the text 
had more or less to do with the product which we were sup- 
posed to be advertising, but the advertiser's "message" was 
merely a point of departure for the copy writer's lovingly 
executed exercise in pure design, and the typography was a 
study in black on white which made no concessions whatever 
to readability. The advertiser's trade-mark and signature were 
either carefully concealed or left out entirely. Usually, of 
course, these pure triumphs, these pious oblations at the shrine 
of Beauty, caused the account executive to yell bloody mur- 
der. He was right and we knew he was right. We had gone 
too far. We would therefore execute a careful retreat from 
such tactical excesses, grumbling dourly for the sake of the 
record that the account executive was obviously an ignoramus, 
and that his precious client was a misbegotten idiot whom we 
would like to kill and stuff with his own Cheery Oats, or 
whatever it was he sold; that, however, as loyal employees of 
dear old Kidder, Bidder & Bunkstein we would gladly give 
him what he wanted and hoped it choked him. 

We never did, of course, for that would have been to con- 
cede too much. So that the client was kept in a constant, 


salutary state of baffled rage, alarm and hope; and every now 
and then an unhappy account executive would have a 
nervous breakdown. We never had nervous breakdowns. 

Does this seem exaggerated? But how can the honest chron- 
icler record fantasy except in the terms of fantasy? And the 
vast accumulation of advertising during the post-war decade 
was fantastic in the extreme. It is still fantastic. Look at it 
in the pages of any commercial magazine. Does it make 
sense in terms of the sober, profit -motivated business that 
advertising is supposed to be? Recently the investigators of 
the Psychological Corporation discovered that the variation 
as between advertisements of lowest and highest effectiveness 
runs as high as 1,000 per cent. An automobile assembly line 
is considered poor if it permits a quality variation of more 
than 30 per cent. Is it sensible to believe that a production 
technique which frequently shows 3,000 per cent variation 
in the quality of the product is really aimed at its avowed 
objective, namely the sale of products and services to cus- 
tomers? Well, if I were out duck shooting and missed my 
duck by i ,000 per cent, I should consider it open to question 
whether or not I was really trying to hit that duck. 

No. To understand this phenomenon we must employ a 
far subtler analysis, giving all the factors their due weight, 
no matter how fantastic these factors are, and no matter how 
seemingly irrational the conclusion to which we are led. 

Again, Veblen furnishes us with the essential clue. In the 
Theory of Business Enterprise and elsewhere in the whole 
body of his work, Veblen notes that advertising is one element 
of the "conscientious sabotage" by which business keeps the 
endlessly procreative force of science-in-industry from break- 
ing the chains of the profit system. In this view the business 
man figures as an art-for-art's-saker. His art is the making 
of money, which has nothing to do with the use of the pro- 
ductive forces by which a society gains its livelihood. The art 
of making money is perhaps the purest, the most irrational 


art we know, and its practitioners are utterly intransigent. 
Today these artists in money making are prepared to starve 
millions of people, to plunge the planet in war, to destroy 
civilization itself rather than compromise the purity of their 

Veblen saw all this clearly, and Stuart Chase has employed 
the Veblenian apposition of business and industry in a se- 
quence of useful books. But one might well go further and 
assert that the contradictions of capitalism persist even within 
the mental gears and pistons of its exploitative functionaries. 

Business sabotages industry by means of advertising. True. 
But we, as advertising craftsmen, consciously or unconsciously 
motivated not by a desire to make money but by an obsessed 
delight in the materials of our craft we in turn sabotaged 
advertising. We were and are parasites and unconscious sabo- 
teurs. During the whole postwar decade we gathered strength, 
inflated our prestige, consolidated our power. More and more 
the "creative worker" became the dominant force in agency 
practice, and advertising consequently became more and more 
"pure." The shrine of Beauty was buried under the fruits and 
flowers placed there by devout artists and writers in adver- 
tising. We were no humble starvelings. We caused the salaries 
and fees paid advertising artists and artists to become no- 
torious. Even I, who was always more or less aware of what 
I was doing, and who was indifferent to money for its own 
sake even I, without particularly trying, because I never 
could keep more than a fraction of my mind concentrated 
on the absurd business, managed to triple my salary dur- 
ing the postwar decade. Agency production costs hit the ceil- 
ing, broke through and sailed off into the empyrean. We 
developed an esthetic of advertising art and copy, a philosophy, 
a variety of equally fantastic creeds a whole rich literature 
of rationalization which should interest the psychiatrists 
greatly if they ever get around to examining it. 

I say "we" with poetic license. I speak for the profession, 


but I speak out of turn, and I shall doubtless be roundly 
repudiated and contemned by the menagerie of Cheshire 
Cats, March Hares, Mad Hatters and Red Queens who still 
roam the scant pastures on the other side, the right side of 
the Advertising Looking-Glass. As a matter of fact I con- 
tributed nothing to this literature of rationalization. I was 
too busy making a living, trying to keep sane and do a little 
serious work on the side, and wondering just how soon that 
beautiful iridescent bubble would break, leaving us "creative 
workers" with nothing much in our hands and a lot of soap 
in our eyes. 

It broke. Came Black Thursday, and a chill wind blew 
through the advertising rookeries of the Grand Central Dis- 
trict. Advertising appropriations were cut. That exquisite 
First Article of the Ad-Man's Credo: "When business is good 
it pays to advertise; when business is bad you've got to ad- 
vertise," was invoked with less and less effect. As the months 
and years passed the whole structure of the industry began to 
sideslip and sway. And advertising became less pure. That 
beautiful, haughty odalisque had to hustle down into the 
market place and drag in the customers. She had to speak of 
price. She became dowdy and blatant and vulgar. The primi- 
tive techniques of Hogarth in the eighteenth cenlury were 
resurrected via the tabloids, and the moronic sales talk issued 
in ugly balloons from the mouths of ugly moronic figures. 
Photography was cheaper than drawings and worked as well 
or better. Testimonials were cheap and worked best of all. 

Desperately, advertising began to step out of its part and 
tell the truth a little. The customer got an occasional break. 
But advertising lost her name, the poor girl. And it got worse. 
Every time car loadings hit a new low, another big advertiser 
would go buckeye with testimonials and other loathsome 
practices, and she would lose her name again. Alarmed, the 
reformers of advertising started another vice crusade, and 
their activities will be described elsewhere. They haven't ac- 


complished much, despite General Johnson's benediction pro- 
nounced on the "good" advertising that will be needed more 
and more under the New Deal. Their voices become ever 
fainter and more faint. 

Quite evidently the religion of Beauty-in-Advertising has 
entered upon a period of decadence. The advertisers, being 
only one jump ahead of the sheriff, or more often two jumps 
behind, are obliged to cut each other's throats without bene- 
fit of Beauty. In fact many of them, having learned wisdom 
from the tabloids, are openly blasphemous and vengeful with 
respect to the art-for-art's-sakers. Pursued by their unfor- 
giving maledictions, the Priests of Beauty have fled to Majorca 
or Vermont, where they nurse their wounds and wait. Not 
all of them, however. In 1932 and 1933, a few stalwarts at- 
tempted a counter-offensive against the sansculottes who had 
laid waste the pleasant fields of advertising. The more or 
less recognized leader of this gallant Lacedemonian band is 
Mr. Rene Clarke, President of the firm of Calkins & Holden, 
Inc., one of the oldest, most ethical, and most respected adver- 
tising agencies in America. Mr. Clarke is a genuinely gifted 
designer whose worship of Beauty is without flaw or com- 
promise. Among his many triumphs is that of so glorifying 
Wesson Oil that millions of American housewives consume 
tons of it, under the impression, doubtless, that it is a kind of 

When the evil days came, Mr. Clarke had no pleasure in 
them, and no sympathy for the panic-stricken advertisers 
who with more or less success were trying to lift them- 
selves out of the spreading sea of red ink by the balloon tech- 
nique borrowed from the tabloids. Hence, after the slaughter 
of the morons had proceeded without benefit of Beauty for 
three depression years, Mr. Clarke, in 1932, published in 
Advertising and Selling the pronunciamento which is here 
quoted in full: 



Bring me Idealism: I'm tired of things that look like things as 
they are. Have you buried your hearts like pots of gold in the 
earth? You who are entrusted with the responsibility of showing 
others what they cannot see for themselves. If your eyes see only 
what is seen by others, from where will the vision come? You who 
have been so disdainful of the ordinary, will you stand aside now 
and let the ordinary lead you back to the paths that stretch up to 
the heights? 

You claimed to be the leaders, the gifted, sensitive few, who dis- 
cerned and brought into being the beauty that is truth. The quality 
of leadership is tested by adversity. Because we have adversity, do 
you renounce your leadership and hoard your visions against that 
time when some one else has made a market for your talent? 

Is your sense of beauty so delicate that it cannot be exposed to 
the frost? Will you come out again like house flies at the first 
warm touch of prosperity's spring? 

Bring me Courage: I'm tired of conformity that hides behind 
the general use. It is indeed a low level that parallels the taste of 
the throng. If we all conform, wherein will the crowd find guid- 
ance away from the common level? You say it narrows your mar- 
ket. Nothing of worth has been created with one eye on one's 
market. One needs both eyes and yet more to see into one's heart, 
and it is from there that truth is born. 

Courage walks alone, even in the market places. The crowd must 
follow where the trail is blazed. Look at your idols. Did they hesi- 
tate because no one had been that way before? Did they wait for 
acceptance before they advertised their principles? 

Bring me Imagination: I'm tired of today and want to see to- 

I need an image, not of what I am, but of what I hope to be. Put 
away the mirror; set up the telescope. Was it not yesterday you 
boasted that your souls had wings, that you could penetrate rare 
atmospheres where the rest of us could not exist? Fly now, and 
bring us down a measure of that ozone. 

Bring us back from those excursions of the mind, which are the 
responsibility of your guild, a portion of wine to wash down our 


dry daily fare wine from the vineyards of romance and imagina- 

If you bring us only bread, you become mere housewives serving 
the needs of the body, and we recede step by step from that 
estate which breeds the very license of your occupation. 

Have you no contacts with the gods that you only recite the 
conversations of the world? What binds you to this circling round 
and round? Can you not stretch your tether ever so little that the 
next circle would be trod on untrampled ground? 

Do you listen to those who counsel return to something which 
we had but have lost. That is the creed of those who lack imagina- 
tion or courage and the refuge of those without plan. What we had 
we have not now. It belongs to yesterday, not today nor tomorrow. 
Others may lean on and borrow from the past, but you may not. 
Yours is the responsibility to create the new, the fresh, the vital 
vision of tomorrow, what we hope to be. 

Obviously Mr. Clarke has gone dada, and I trust no person 
in this audience will be so ungracious as to ask what he is 
talking about. In the old days, when, in the heat of copy and 
art conferences, advertisers voiced such impertinent ques- 
tions, we always boxed their ears and told them to mind 
their own business, if any. Often there was little enough by 
the time we got through with them. 

I regard Mr. Clarke's manifesto as a classic of its kind, and 
not without its historic interest; for Mr. Clarke himself is 
perhaps the last of the art-for-art's-sakers in advertising. 
His manifesto is illustrated by a most artistic photographic 
study of the artist himself, standing with one hand resting on 
his hip, the other hand lifted and placed upon a pillar of 
the temple of advertising, the clear, unsubdued eyes gazing 
into the distance. The pose is suggestive, even ominous. What 
does this Samson of Art-in-Advertising mean to do? Shorn 
of his prestige, will he gird his loins once more, and bring the 
whole temple roaring down upon the heads of the Philis- 
tines? It would be a fitting end. 


Let us turn now to a consideration of the primary phase 
of the Ad-Man's worship of Beauty: the manufacture by 
advertising of successive exploitable concepts of feminine 
beauty, of beauty in clothes, houses, furniture, automobiles, 
kitchens, everything. One notes three major points: first, that 
these concepts must be as rapidly obsolescent as possible; sec- 
ond, that the connotation of beauty with expensiveness is 
rigorously enforced; third, that beauty is conceived of as 
functional with respect to profitable sales, rather than with 
respect to satisfying beautifully and economically the living 
and working needs of the population. 

Most exploitation of the idea of beauty reduces in practi- 
cal terms to a promotion of sales and profits through the 
fostering of obsolescence. This is most apparent in the field of 
women's fashions. Here the exploitative apparatus includes 
not only advertising in the narrow sense of the word, but 
also the editorial propaganda of the style magazines, plus a 
more or less collusive hook-up with the rotogravure supple- 
ments of the newspapers, with stage and motion picture 
actresses, and with Junior League debutantes. This complex 
promotion apparatus is utilized to achieve, first, the funda- 
mentally false identification of beauty and fashion. The ac- 
celeration of fashion changes during the postwar period is an 
index of the textile industry's rapid emergence into the "sur- 
plus economy" phase of capitalism, with its entailed crisis. 
The life-span of a successful style was roughly about a year 
in 1920. Today, according to the testimony of well-known 
stylists, this life-span has dropped to less than six months. 
The mortality of the candidates for fashion's favor has corre- 
spondingly increased. 

Winifred Raushenbush, in an article in the New Freeman, 
described the dilemma of the dress manufacturer who knows 
that nine out of every ten designs are doomed to "take a 
bath," to use the trade jargon. This mortality is about 
equally high throughout the fashion industry, whether in hats, 

dresses or cloaks, and whether the manufacturer is serving 
the high, medium or low style markets. Snobbism is, of 
course, the major instrument of the promotion technique. 
The exquisite hauteur with which both the advertisers in 
Vogue and the editor of Vogue lecture their nouveaux riche 
readers is matched only by the slightly burlesqued imitation 
of this manner to which indigent stenographers are subjected 
when they look for bargains on Fourteenth Street. The dif- 
fusion of a fashion change, both as to geography, and as be- 
tween the high, medium and low style levels has become 
almost instantaneous. Emulative pressures are invoked all 
down the line. Women dress today not merely for men, but 
for women as a form of social competition. So potent is the 
style-terror that even during the depression the majority of 
women would rather starve than risk the shame of non- 
conformity. They save and scrimp, skip lunches, buy the 
latest mode, and four months later are obliged to buy again 
this time an "ensemble," so that the manufacturers of hand- 
bags and even cosmetics may also share in the profits of style- 

Deterioration of function fostered by advertising is espe- 
cially conspicuous in the field of fashion. Even in expensive 
high-style apparel, the materials tend increasingly to be 
shoddy. And the crowning joke is that for about fifty per 
cent of American women, the dress, cloak and hat manufac- 
turers do not produce, do not even attempt to produce, 
clothes which have any relation to the physical type of the 
women who are asked to buy them! This, at least, is the 
testimony of Miss Raushenbush in another New Freeman 
article entitled "15,000,000 Women Can't go Nude." They 
don't go nude, of course. They accept the ruthless prescrip- 
tion of the current fashion, which is usually appropriate for 
the young flapper type. It looks and fits like the devil on the 
mature woman, the short woman, the tall woman, the "hippy" 
woman. There are at least five major feminine types of these 



"forgotten women" the existence of whom the fashion indus- 
try has barely deigned to notice, let alone serve adequately. 

In recent years the attempt has been made to extend the 
sway of fashion, /. e., profit-motivated obsolescence, into 
every conceivable field of human purchase and use. Invariably 
this fashion offensive wears the masque of beauty. Almost 
invariably, the net result is to increase the tonnage of shoddy 
make-believe. One must say this at the same time that one 
acknowledges in fairness that the industrial designers who 
have both promoted and profited by this offensive, have tried 
to introduce some slight measure of the substance and func- 
tion of beauty, and in some cases have measurably succeeded. 

The motivation of this crusade is acknowledged in the 
title of an article contributed by Earnest Elmo Calkins to 
Advertising and Selling: "The Dividends of Beauty." One 
readily acknowledges that nothing, whether beautiful or 
ugly, can be made under a profit system unless it does pay 
dividends. The point is that under a profit system both the 
guiding esthetic and its expression by a profit -motivated in- 
dustry are severely limited and distorted, so that the net 
product of beauty is likely to be meagre indeed. Says Mr. 

The place of art in industry is becoming firmly established. A 
restaurant arranges common vegetables in patterns in its windows, 
taking full advantage of the different greens of peas, asparagus, 
cauliflower and artichoke, and adds eye-appeal to appetite appeal. 
A railroad landscapes its stations with grass plots and climbing roses 
and transforms an unsightly utility into an attractive eye-catcher, 
builds local goodwill, adds an esthetic touch to mere ordinary 
travel, and creates a new sales argument. 

Much has been accomplished in this new field, but the list is long 
of manufactured articles waiting for that beautifying touch which 
costs but little and adds so much to acceptance. The initial shape 
and color of most machine-made articles are ugly. Why, I don't 
know. Nature does not err that way. All her products are artistic 


and harmonious with each other. Some appeal to several senses. An 
ear of corn is pleasant to sight and touch. . . . Nothing but man 
with his filling stations, hot-dog stands and automobile cemeteries 
strikes a discordant note. ... A forest grows unhelped and is for- 
ever beautiful. A town grows as it will and looks like hell hit with 
a club. Beauty in man-made articles must be the result of conscious 
thinking. . . . 

Mr. Calkins, a veteran of the advertising profession, admits 
that he doesn't know why most machine-made articles are 
ugly. By and large, the writer must admit a similar ignorance. 
The glib radical answer would run to the effect that it is not 
the machine, but the application of machine technology to the 
making of profits that results in this ugliness. But this answer 
doesn't cover all the facts by any means. Some machine-made 
articles, even some machine-made consumer's goods, made for 
profit and sold at Woolworth's, are beautiful. Many hand- 
made articles are ugly Elbert Hubbard's de luxe editions for 
example, and much of the present flood of sweatshop toys, 
china, etc., coming out of Japan and Germany; also the neo- 
Mayan design in pottery and textiles which results when the 
primitive social-economic pattern of a Mexican village is shat- 
tered and the native craftsmen are Taylorized by a capitalist 
entrepreneur. Yet the burial urns and other art objects turned 
out in quantity during some of the best Chinese periods, 
trade-marked, and exported for profit to Persia, were and are 
extremely beautiful. Production for use does not necessarily 
result in beauty, nor does production for profit necessarily 
result in ugliness. Estheticians and sociologists have striven 
vainly to discover the rationale of beauty in the social con- 
text of production, sale and use. The best that the writer can 
offer is a tentative observation to the effect that the Ameri- 
can genius, operating under the conditions of modern indus- 
trial capitalism burns brightest, and gives the largest product 
of beauty in the field of producer's goods : the machines them- 


selves, turbines, electric cranes, modern factory architecture 
and the product of these factories for strict use seen in 
bridges, viaducts, etc. On the other hand the American blind 
spot is in the field of economic and social organization; 
hence we are likely to find that a machine product, designed 
for sale to the ultimate consumer usually, though not always 
betrays the disorder, the insanity, the ugliness of our decadent 
capitalist economy and our chaotic distributive system. In 
general I think it may be said that where the salesman and 
advertiser, rather than the craftsman and producer, are in 
the saddle, what the consumer gets is likely to be ugliness. In 
a fragmented civilization such as ours, art and the artist tend 
to be tossed off to the periphery of a system which no longer 
is organic. Mr. Calkins would like to bring the artist back to 
the center of the system, where, as industrial designer, he 
can contribute "that beautifying which costs but little and 
adds so much to acceptance." The attempt is in fact being 
made on a considerable scale, but without much success, and 
for very good reasons. 

A very good industrial designer there are a number of 
highly talented Americans at work in this field can control 
some but not all of the factors which determine whether a 
product is to be beautiful or ugly. He can't control the profit- 
motive and that is precisely where he falls down. As a matter 
of fact, who is it calls in the industrial designer? The adver- 
tising agency, usually, or the sales manager of the manu- 
facturer. Why do they call him in? To make the product a 
beautiful object? Incidentally, perhaps, but primarily to make 
the product a salable object. The designer hence must work 
not as an artist, but as a showman, a salesman. If he were 
working as an artist, he would make the form of the object 
express the truth of its function, not merely in mechanical 
but also in economic and social terms, and it would be beauti- 
ful. But his is perforce a one-dimensional art. Working as he 
must, as a showman, he usually gives the object a novel flip 

of line or color he "styles" it in terms of the showman, not 
of the artist. As a designer he finds himself frustrated and 
stultified by the false and anti-social production relationships 
which condition his labor. The same thing is true, of course, 
of the engineer, the educator, the doctor, the architect, in- 
deed of all creative workers in an acquisitive society. Recently 
one of the best known and most highly paid industrial de- 
signers in America came to me and asked what chance he 
would have of doing serious work in Russia. He was fed up 
with the rootless frivolities that sales managers had asked him 
to turn out. 

It is in the field of package design that the artist has great- 
est freedom and has scored his maximum of seeming successes. 
It is true that simple, bold lettering, clear colors and good 
design produce more sightly packages and that customers are 
attracted by such packages. It is also true that these packages 
are likely to contain the same overpriced, overadvertised and 
sub-standard content that they always held. This package 
"beauty" is therefore skin deep, and its creation the proper 
concern of business men and commercial dilettantes, not of 
artists who have any conception of the social function of art. 
If these packageers had any such conception they would prob- 
ably feel obliged to ask first, in three cases out of five, whether 
the product really ought to be packaged at all. 

It occurs to me that in discussing the role of the craftsman 
in advertising I may have given the impression that his "con- 
scientious sabotage," his interest in the materials of the craft 
rather than in selling, his attempts to convert advertising into 
a thing-in-itself, represent a genuine release of creative ca- 
pacity. No such impression was intended. If any genuine 
creation goes on in advertising agencies I have never seen it. I 
have seen the sort of thing described: the crippled, grotesque, 
make-believe of more or less competent craftsmen who played 
with the materials of their craft but could never use them 
systematically for any creative purpose. By and large there is 


no such thing as art in advertising any more than there is 
such a thing as an advertising literature. 

The best of us, certainly, had more sense than to make any 
such pretensions. I suppose that in some twelve years of 
advertising practice I must have written some millions of 
words of what is called "advertising copy," much of it for 
very eminent and respectable advertisers. It was all anony- 
mous, thank heaven, and I shall never claim a line of it. True, 
half-true and false, the advertiser signed it, the newspapers 
and magazines printed it, the radio announcer blatted it, and 
the wind has blown it away. It was all quite without any 
human dignity or meaning, let alone beauty, and it cannot 
be too soon forgotten. 

No, we knew what we were. On the door of the art de- 
partment of an agency where I worked, a friend of mine, one 
of the ablest and most prolific commercial artists in the busi- 
ness, once tacked a sign. It read: "Fetid Hell-Hole of Lost 

There are many hundreds of these "fetid hell-holes" in the 
major cities of America. The inmates are, of course, dedicated 
to beauty, beauty in advertising. Whether they knew it or not 
they are, as artists, so many squeaking, tortured eunuchs. The 
Sultans of business pay them well or not so well. They have 
made sure that they do not fertilize the body of the culture 
with the dangerous seed of art. 





IN TRACING the pattern of the ad -man's pseudoculture, 
we come next to the concept of love, which figures as an 
ingredient in most of the coercions of fear and emulation by 
which the ad-man's rule is administered and enforced. The 
theory and practice of this rule are clearly indicated in the 
title of a comparatively recent advertising text book by Mr. 
Kenneth M. Goode: Haw to Turn People into Gold. As a prac- 
ticing alchemist in his own right and also as an agent of that 
purest of art-for-art's-sake gold-diggers, the business man, 
the ad-man treats love pragmatically, using every device to 
extract pecuniary gain from the love dilemmas of the popula- 
tion. The raw ore of human need, desire and dream is carefully 
washed and filtered to eliminate all impurities of intelligence, 
will and self-respect, so that a deposit of pure gold may be 
precipitated into the pockets of the advertiser. 

The enterprise of turning people, with their normal sexual 
desires and human affections, into gold, is greatly helped by 
the fact that our Puritan cultural heritage is peculiarly rich 
in the psychopathology of sex. This social condition is in 
itself highly exploitable, but it is not enough. The ad-man 
is in duty bound not merely to exploit the mores as he finds 
them, but further to pervert and debauch the emotional life 
of our literate masses and classes. He must not merely sell 
love-customers; he must also create love-customers, for, as 


we have seen, the advertising profession is nothing if not 

The dominance of the love appeal in contemporary adver- 
tising must be apparent to every reader of our mass and 
class magazines, as well as to the Great Radio Audience. 
Curiously enough, it would appear that the so-called "higher" 
manifestations of sex its moral, ethical, spiritual and roman- 
tic derivatives and sublimations, the domestic affections and 
loyalties of husbands and wives, and of parents and children, 
are more exploitable than the grosser sexual appetites. Love 
rules the world, and the greatest triumph of modern adver- 
tising is the discovery that people may be induced to turn 
themselves into gold simply by a forthright appeal to their 
better natures, as a kind of public duty, since it is recognized 
in all civilized communities that gold is more beautiful and 
more valuable than people. Today, therefore, many of our 
most successful advertisers stand, like John P. Wintergreen 
in "Of Thee I Sing," squarely upon the broad platform of 
Love, and when their campaigns are conducted with proper 
vigor, skill and enthusiasm, their election is almost automatic, 
as in the Third Reich. This, at least, is the contention of many 
eminent members of the advertising profession. 

The distinction between sacred and profane love is difficult 
to maintain, and is in fact frequently blurred in current ad- 
vertising practice. For convenience in examining the evidence, 
perhaps the following categories will serve: 

Sacred Love. The affections and loyalties of husbands and 
wives. Maternal, paternal and filial affections. Religious and 
charitable impulses. Respect for the dead. Idealism in roman- 
tic love, this being closely related to the concepts of chastity 
and beauty. 

Profane Love. The physical intimacies of adolescents, such 
as kissing, petting, etc. The problem created by sexual desire 
on the part of both the married and the unmarried, as com- 
plicated by the desire not to have children. 


Illustrative material in both categories is so abundant that 
the specimens cited in this exposition will necessarily fail to 
include many of the most distinguished achievements of con- 
temporary advertising. No slight is intended, and any reader 
who wishes to do so can easily correct the balance by a brief 
survey of the advertising pages of current mass and class 

The sanctity of marriage is a major item in the Christian 
idealism of love. I quote at this point an advertisement by the 
Cadillac Motor Company which exploits this idealism with all 
the resources of modern advertising technique: 


It may have been but a decade ago ... or it may have been in 
the beautiful 90*5 . . . but sometime, somewhere, a young man 
stood in the soft light of a Junetime morning . . . and repeated the 
words ... "I do." . . . Since that time he has fought, without 
interruption, for the place in the world he wants his family to 
occupy. . . . And it may be that, out of the struggle, he has lost a 
bit of the sentiment that used to abide in his heart . . . for success 
is a jealous master and exacts great servitude. . . . But not when 
the Junetime comes . . . and, with it, that anniversary of another 
June! . . . Then the work-a-day world, with its many tasks, is 
cast abruptly aside, and sentiment pure and simple rules in his 
heart once more. . . . And, because there are literally thousands of 
him, doorbells are ringing this June throughout America . . . and 
smiling boys in uniform stand, hats in hand, with the proof of 
remembrance. . . . And along with the beautiful flowers, and the 
boxes of candy, and the other tokens . . . some of those brides of 
other Junes will receive the titles to new Cadillacs . . . and for 
them there will be no other June like this save one alone. . . . 
There is a Cadillac dealer in your community long practiced in 
the art of keeping a secret. . . . Why not go see him today? You 
can trust him not to tell! 


Note the exquisite, hesitant style. The copy writer knows 
he is treading on sacred ground. Do not blame him for using 
the "three dots" device invented by that fleshly Broadway 
columnist, Walter Winchell. Rather, one should admire the 
catholicity of spirit by which profane techniques are con- 
verted to sacred uses. Note that this tender message to fond 
husbands, written not without awareness of its effect upon 
wives, focuses upon the proof that he has remembered his 
marriage anniversary. Ladies, by their works ye shall know 
them. The more costly the proof the more profound the sen- 
timent. On that remembered June she got a husband. This 
June she gets a Cadillac. Clearly the one was a means to the 
other. Note too that only some wives will get Cadillacs, 
precious both in themselves and as emulative symbols in the 
endless race to keep up with the Joneses. 

In the original advertisement the photograph of orange 
blossoms was reproduced in color. Beauty, sentiment, tact, 
effrontery by means of these reagents the advertising al- 
chemist converts the pure and beautiful devotion of husbands 
into something still more pure. Gold. Pure gold. 

Advertisers believe enormously in children. They have lav- 
ished immense sums upon the education of parents in matters 
of infant care and feeding, the prevention of disease, etc. 
Much of that education is sound enough, much of it is irre- 
sponsible and misleading, and all of it, of course, is anything 
but gratuitous. I have before me an advertisement of Cream 
of Wheat which shows the familiar scare technique used in 
exploiting parental devotion. The headline, "At the Foot of 
My Baby's Crib I Made a SOLEMN PROMISE" is melodra- 
matic even as to typography. What's it all about? The baby 
in the fable was shifted from milk to solid food not Cream 
of Wheat and got sick. The doctor, who judging from his 
photograph might well be a retired confidence man, tells 
the parents to feed the baby Cream of Wheat. The inference 
is that if he'd been fed Cream of Wheat from the beginning, 


he wouldn't have become sick, which is itself an impudent 
enough non sequitur. Add the fact that semolina, a non- 
trade-marked wheat product used by macaroni manufactur- 
ers, is in the writer's experience of baby-feeding, an entirely 
satisfactory equivalent for Cream of Wheat costing about a 
third as much, and you get a measure of the advertiser's 
effrontery. Compute Cream of Wheat's share in the huge 
annual levy of over-priced and de-natured breakfast cereals 
on American food budgets, and you get a measure of the 
advertiser's service to the American Home and the Ameri- 
can Kiddy. The writer might add, merely as his professional 
opinion, that without advertising the breakfast cereal business 
would wither in a year, with very considerable benefit to the 
health and wealth of American men, women and children. 

Death. It is probable that but for the ineffable mortician 
and his confederate, the casket-maker, we might by this time 
have modified, in the direction of decency, taste and economy, 
some of the grotesque burial rites that we inherit from our 
savage ancestors. But no. It still costs a tired, poverty-stricken 
American laborer about as much to die and be buried as it 
does a high-caste Balinese, and the accompanying orgies are, 
of course, infinitely more hideous. It is scarcely worth it. Read- 
ers interested in this macabre traffic are referred to the study 
by John C. Gebhardt for the Russell Sage Foundation. Adver- 
tising plays its part, of course, and the appeal, in terms of 
menacing solemnity, is invariably to the love of the bereft 
ones for the departed. New York columnists still remember 
the maggoty eloquence of one Dr. Berthold E. Baer in behalf 
of Campbell's Funeral Church, under such headlines as 
"Buried with her Canary Bird," "Skookum," etc. This series 
ran in New York newspapers during the winter of 1919-1920. 
The current advertising of the National Casket Company is 
scarcely less gruesome. 

'Romance. When we enter the starry fields of romance, the 
advertising lines begin to blur, and we can never be sure 


whether we are dealing with love in its sacred or in its pro- 
fane aspects. Of one thing, however, we can always be sure. 
We are in the field of sex competition, and the advertiser, 
with his varied stock of cosmetics, soaps, gargles and deo- 
dorants, figures as Love's Armourer; also, perhaps, as 
schatchen; also well, the Elizabethans had a word for it. 
The advertiser's sales patter runs somewhat as follows: "You 
want a lover. Very well, gargle with Blisterine, use such and 
such soaps and cosmetics, and let Cecilia Bilson teach you how 
to be charming without cost." The exploitation of love's 
young dream is by this time a huge industry in itself. Re- 
cently, advertisers of such remotely serviceable products as 
radios and razor blades have been trying to muscle in on it. 

Profane Love. When we come to the "marriage hygiene" 
nee "feminine hygiene" advertisers it becomes clear that we 
are dealing with the physical aspects of love. Physical love is 
taboo in our society except when legalized by the State; taboo 
also, if one were to take our various and tangled State and 
Federal statutes seriously (which practically nobody does) 
except when having procreation as its object. The debris of 
the law, reflecting as it does our obsolete mores, is ridiculous 
enough in Connecticut, for example, it is legal for a drug 
store to sell contraceptive devices but illegal for a man or 
woman to use them. 

Very few people obey the law, of course. Birth control is 
today one of the facts of American life. It is practiced, or at 
least attempted in some form, almost universally. 

But the laws remain on the statute books. The shadow of the 
taboo remains, and in this shadow the advertising profession 
operates what is probably the most flourishing racket in 
America, now that Capone is in jail and prohibition is no 

In the files of Consumers' Research I counted leaflets adver- 
tising some fifty different antiseptics and other contraceptive 
products, and in the files of the National Committee on 

Maternal Health, some hundred and fifty more. Neither 
organization attempts to list them all; the total probably runs 
into thousands. Each is represented either directly or by im- 
plication to be a convenient, safe and reliable contraceptive. 
Meanwhile the gynecologists of the world have been search- 
ing for precisely such a thing and say they haven't yet found 
it. Meanwhile, the leaders of the English Birth Control 
movement, in despair, are demanding the legalization of 
abortion, and of sterilization as in Russia. Meanwhile Margaret 
Sanger and her lieutenants in the American Birth Control 
movement are pointing out that the existing legislation 
which prohibits the dissemination of birth control informa- 
tion is really class legislation. Upper and middle-class peo- 
ple whether married or not can get advice from their doctors 
and buy contraceptives at drug stores. The fifty per cent of 
the population which lives at or below a subsistence level 
can afford neither doctors nor rubber goods. Only a few 
thousand can be accommodated by the present capacity of 
the birth control clinics. 

But gynecologists are merely scientists and Mrs. Sanger is 
merely the gallant and indomitable Mrs. Sanger. They 
scarcely rank with Doctor Sayle Taylor, LL.D., now, 
because of the querulousness of the American Medical Asso- 
ciation. As the "Voice of Experience," Doctor Taylor com- 
forts thousands of wounded hearts over the radio. In his 
personal appearances before Men Only and Women Only he 
details the mysteries of love and sells little booklets full of 
highly dangerous misinformation and not lacking the address 
of a contraceptive manufacturer. 

But how about the respectable drug houses whose annual 
"take" from the contraceptive racket far surpasses that of 
the eloquent "Doctor"? 

The hired ad-men of these drug houses perform miracles 
of delicacy in conveying to the magazine readers half-truths 
and outright deceptions. 


Take Lysol, for example. In their monumental study "The 
Control of Conception," Dr. Robert L. Dickinson and Dr. 
Louise Stevens Bryant say flatly that Lysol should be banned 
as a contraceptive. Not that it isn't a good antiseptic. It is 
indeed, a powerful antiseptic too powerful to be used for 
contraceptive purposes except in weak solutions which the 
average woman can scarcely be trusted to make with ac- 
curacy and not reliable in any case. Further, the clinical evi- 
dence to date both in England and in America, indicates that 
no antiseptic douche is at all dependable as a contraceptive in 
and of itself. 

In the earlier stages of the feminine hygiene campaigns, 
the language of the ad-men was full of euphemisms, of in- 
direction, of tender solicitude for the sad-eyed wives pictured 
above such captions as "The Very Women who supposed they 
knew, are grateful for these enlightening facts." But recently 
the pressure of competition has speeded up the style. "Now 
it Can be Told," they declaim, and "Why mince words?" 

Some of them don't; for example, the ad-man for Pariogen 
tablets, who writes the following chaste communication, ad- 
dressed presumably to the automobile trade: 

"Pariogen tablets may be carried anywhere in a purse, 
making hygienic measures possible almost anywhere, no other 
accessories or water being required." 

It has been argued that birth control education is a neces- 
sary social job, and that the ad-men are doing it. The answer 
to that is that they are doing it badly, irresponsibly and ex- 
pensively, with a huge by-product of abortion and other 
human wreckage and suffering. Thus far birth control has 
been the obsession of a few honest crusaders like Mrs. Sanger, 
Dr. Dickinson, and Dr. W. J. Robinson. For support, it has 
had to let itself be made the plaything of philanthropic social 
registerites, and say "please" to an organized medical pro- 
fession so divided in its counsels, so terrified of offending the 
mores, and so jealous of its emoluments that it has dragged on 

the skirts of the movement rather than assume the courageous 
leadership which is not merely its right but its obvious duty. 
The medical societies of Michigan and Connecticut are nota- 
ble exceptions to this judgment. 

Despite such handicaps, the labors of Mrs. Sanger, Dr. 
Dickinson and others, aided by the gradual relaxation of the 
taboo since the war, have achieved the following major re- 

1. Some 144 clinics functioning in 43 States. 

2. A technique, which while far from ideal or even com- 
pletely reliable is successful in 96 to 98 percentage of cases. 

3. An increasing penetration of the daily and periodical 
press with birth control propaganda. (Except for one or two 
liberal stations with negligible audiences, birth control is 
still barred from the air.) 

4. Laboratory and clinical research at Yale, the Universi- 
ties of London and Edinburgh, and elsewhere, which may at 
any moment yield revolutionary results. Russia, of course, 
has endowed such research heavily and may be first to solve 
the problem. 

5. The establishment of birth control courses in practically 
all of the leading medical schools, and a considerable propa- 
gandizing of the profession through the Birth Control Re- 
view which, however, was discontinued in July, 1933. 

What could be built now, on the foundations laid by the 
devotion of these pioneers? The answer runs in terms of 
economics, politics and sociology. A birth control clinic oper- 
ated on a fairly large scale, such as the Sanger Clinic in New 
York, can provide instruction, equipment and clinical follow- 
up for about $5.00 per year per patient. Multiply that $5.00 
by about twenty million and you get $100,000,000 a year as 
the bill for a publicly administered contraceptive service of 
approximate adequacy. Would it be worth $100,000,000? Of 
course. Will anything of the sort be done? Probably not. 
Why? The Pope and the Propaganda of the Faith, which still, 


to paraphrase Veblen, "ignores material facts with magisterial 
detachment" one of these facts being that wherever birth 
control clinics have been opened they have been patronized 
by Catholics in full proportion to the percentage of Catholics 
in the populations served. The Fundamentalists are equally 
obstructive, although their magazines cheerfully publish con- 
traceptive advertising. Alas, of course, the big drug houses, 
which doubtless would interpose objections on purely moral, 
ethical and spiritual grounds. Also the Fourth Estate, whose 
freedom to defend the sanctity of the home must not be 
impugned or calumniated by any suspicion of a material in- 
terest arising out of the advertising income received from the 
before-mentioned drug houses. Also the medical profession, 
a small part of which feels itself obliged, like the advertising 
profession, to turn human life into gold, a large part of which 
is plain stupid and timid, and a part of which a small part 
is magnificent and may be counted upon to go the limit at 
almost any cost to itself. 

In contrast to what is being done by the birth control 
clinics and what might be done by an intelligent expenditure 
of public funds, let's have one more look at how the job is 
being done by business men and advertisers interested solely 
in "service" and "truth." 

It is roughly estimated that the American people spend 
about $25,000,000 a year for contraceptive devices and 
materials. Largely because of the failure of these commercially 
exploited hit-or-miss techniques, Prof. F. J. Taussig of Wash- 
ington University estimates that there are about 700,000 abor- 
tions every year in this country. This situation is, of course, 
highly exploitable, especially because of the bootleg nature 
of the traffic. The most popular contraceptive sells at a profit 
to the retail druggist of nearly 1000 per cent. According to 
Mr. Randolph Cautley of the National Committee on Ma- 
ternal Hygiene, the advertising of abortifacients in the pulp 
magazines increased 2800 per cent in one year between 


I93 2 an< 3 1933. It is, of course, a commonplace of medical 
knowledge that no abortifacient is effective and that all of 
them are highly dangerous as well as illegal. In his survey 
which was incomplete because of the limited funds at the 
disposal of his organization the three major contraceptive 
advertisers spent a total of $412,647 in 1933 Mr. Cautley 
counted 16 advertisers who were obviously selling aborti- 
facients, 3 5 who were selling contraceptives and 20 classified 
as "uncertain." The abortifacient copy is especially discreet. 
"Use it when nature fails you," they advertise, and "For un- 
natural delay. Double strength. Rushed first class mail.*' Now 
and then the Food and Drug Administration catches one of 
these rats, but it is difficult, and will continue to be difficult 
even under the strengthened provisions of the Copeland Bill. 





Come Up and See Me Some Time 

THE mission of the ad-man is sanctified by the exigencies 
of our capitalist economy and of our topsy-turvy acquisitive 
pseudoculture. His mission is to break down the sales resistance 
of the breadlines; to restore prosperity by persuading us to 
eat more yeast, smoke more Old Golds and gargle more 
assorted antiseptics. t ; 

In fulfilling this mission it is appropriate that the ad-man 
invoke divine aid. The god of America, indeed of the modern 
world, is the scientist. Today it is only in the Fundamental- 
ist, Sunday School quarterlies that God wears long white 
whiskers. In the advertising pages of the popular magazines 
He wears a pince-nez and an imperial; sometimes He squints 
through a microscope; or, instead of Moses' rod, He bran- 
dishes a test tube. The scripture which accompanies these pic- 
torial pluckings of modern herd responses is austere, erudite, 
and asterisked with references to even more erudite foot- 
notes. The headline, however, is invariably simple and ex- 
plicit. In it the god says that yeast is good for what ails you. 

The god is often a foreign god, resident in London, Vienna, 
Paris or Budapest. That makes him all the more impressive 
and harder for the skeptical savants of the American Medi- 
cal Association to get at and chasten. 

In response to a recent inquiry printed in the Journal of the 
American Medical Association) these savants remarked: "Yeast 
is so uncertain in laxative effect that it is hardly justified ta 

classify it among the cathartics. . . . That, among the hosts 
of persons taking yeast a skin disorder clears up occasionally 
is not surprising. The association might be entirely accidental. 
The history of yeast, the periodic waning and gaining in 
favor, suggest that it has therapeutic value, but that this value 
is slight indeed." 

Sometimes, as in the case of yeast, the god is appeased by 
appropriate sacrifices: $750, f.o.b. London, was the price 
offered to and declined by one prominent English medico. 
Advertisers, however, have little difficulty in rounding up 
plenty of less fastidious impersonators of the deity, and the 
required honorariums are distressingly small less than half 
what is normally paid to society leaders. After being duly 
salved and photographed, surrounded by the paraphernalia 
of his profession, the "scientist" gives his disinterested, expert, 
scientific opinion. But sometimes he goes further. He proves 
that the advertiser's product is the best. 

The makers of Old Gold cigarettes have gone in heavily 
for this sort of proof. A while back they proved that Old 
Gold is the "coolest" cigarette. This demonstration was made 
by Drs. H. H. Shalon and Lincoln T. Work, for the New 
York Testing Laboratories. They proved, using the "bomb 
calorimeter," the "smokometer" and other assorted abra- 
cadabra, that an Old Gold cigarette contains 6576 B.T.U.'s; 
whereas Brand X contained 6688 B.T.U.'s, Brand Y 6731 
B.T.U.'s and Brand Z 6732 B.T.U.'s. 

What, by the way, is a B.T.U.? It is an abbreviation for 
"British Thermal Unit" a measurement of beat content. 
If Old Golds contain a fraction of a per cent less B.T.U.'s 
than the other tested cigarettes, does that make them any 
"cooler." Not by a jugful. What does it prove? Nothing. 

Scientists of this stripe are almost painfully eager to show 
that they are good fellows that they are prepared to "go 
along." Intellectually, they are humble creatures the altar 
boys and organ blowers of the temple of science. They have 


wives with social ambitions and children who need shoes. 
They lack advancement, and when advertisers, who are often 
very eminent and respectable, make friendly and respectful 
overtures, they are often very glad to serve the needs of 

Such friendships would doubtless be more general but for 
certain unwarranted apprehensions, especially prevalent 
among the banking fraternity. The strong men of Wall Street 
have been slow in realizing that the glamorous Lady Lou and 
many of these stiff, spectacled earnest creatures of the labora- 
tory know their place in an acquisitive society; that beneath 
that acid-stained smock there often beats a heart of gold. 

Recently Mr. Kettering, vice president and research director 
of General Motors, felt obliged to defend the engineer against 
the banker's charge that he is upsetting the stability of busi- 
ness. Said Mr. Kettering, with a candor which cannot be too 
much admired: "The whole object of research is to keep every 
one reasonably dissatisfied with what he has in order to keep 
the factory busy in making new things." 

This definition of the object of engineering research may 
seem a little startling at first. But it must be remembered 
that Mr. Kettering is not merely an engineer, a scientist, but 
also a corporation executive and as such a practical business 
man. In fact, it might almost be said that in the statement 
quoted Mr. Kettering speaks both as a scientist and as an 
advertising man; a scientific advertising man, if you like, or 
an advertising scientist. Hence, when he says in effect that 
in our society the object of scientific research is the promo- 
tion of obsolescence in all fields of human purchase and use, 
so that profit-motivated manufacturers may be kept busy 
making new things, his words, even though they sound a 
little mad, must be listened to with respect. It would appear 
that under the present regime of business, subject as it is to 
the iron determinants of a surplus economy, the sales function 
must be reinforced in every possible way. Hence the lesser 

departments of science, with their frail purities, their tradi- 
tional humanities, their obsolete and obstructive idealisms, 
will be brought more and more under the hegemony of the 
new "science" of advertising, than which no department of 
science is more pure, more rigorous. The objects and ends 
of this science are predetermined: they are, quite simply, to 
turn people into gold, or to induce people to turn themselves 
into gold. 

The medical experimenter may have qualms about vivisect- 
ing his guinea pigs until he has first anesthetized them. The 
biologist may drop a tear over his holocausts of fruit flies. 
But the young Nietzscheans who run the advertising agencies 
observe a sterner discipline. The science of advertising is the 
science of exploitation, and in nothing is the ad-man more 
scientific, more ruthless than in his exploitation of "science.** 
He is beyond the "good" and "evil** of conventional morality. 
Not for a moment can he afford to forget his motto: "Never 
give the moron a break.** 




AS ADVERTISING became more and more an essential part 
of the mechanism of sales promotion, and as our newspapers 
and magazines took definite form as advertising businesses, 
the advertising profession became highly respectable. It was 
part of the status quo of the acquisitive society and could be 
effectively challenged only by persons and interests standing 
outside this status quo. 

As already indicated, the product of advertising was a 
culture, or pseudoculture. Advertising was engaged in manu- 
facturing precisely the material which our economists, soci- 
ologists and psychologists are supposed to study, measure and 
interpret necessarily within some framework of judgment. 
What framework? Where did our social scientists stand during 
advertising's period of expansion and conquest? 

They stood aside for the most part while advertising pro- 
ceeded to play jackstraws with the "law" of supply and 
demand, and other items of orthodox economic doctrine. 
Thornstein Veblen saw the thing clearly and his brief treat- 
ment of advertising in Absentee Oivnership remains today 
the most exact description of the nature of the advertising 
phenomenon which has yet appeared. But Veblen was a lone 
wolf all his days. And it has been the journalists, publicists 
and engineers, rather than the professors, who have made 
most effective application of Veblen's insights. Stuart Chase, 
a disciple of Veblen, has worked without academic sanctions, 

while the director of Consumers' Research, Mr. F. J. Schlink, 
is an engineer, and Mr. Arthur Kallet, his collaborator in the 
writing of 100,000,000 Guinea Pigs is another. For the most 
part, orthodox economists have either ignored advertising, or 
in very brief and inadequate treatments, have complained 
gently about its "vulgarity," as if, in the nature of the case, 
it could be anything but vulgar. A notable exception is the 
chapter on "Consumers in the Market" by Professor Corwin 
Edwards in the second volume of Economic Behavior by mem- 
bers of the Economics department of New York University. 
Against this competent and forthright analysis, however, 
must be set the sort of thing which Leverett S. Lyon, econ- 
omist of Brooking's Institute, contributes to Volume I of the 
Encyclopedia of Social Sciences. I quote here the concluding 
paragraph of Mr. Lyon's article: 

Consumer advertising is the first rough effort of a society becom- 
ing prosperous to teach itself the use of the relatively great wealth 
of new resources, new techniques, and a reorganized production 
method. Whatever eventually becomes of advertising, society must 
provide some device for this task. Some agency must keep before the 
consumer the possibilities resulting from constant advance, for the 
world appears to be learning to produce goods ever faster. Today the 
voices crying most loudly in the wilderness of consumption are more 
concerned with noisily advertising the weaknesses of advertising 
than with patient teaching of standards of taste which will reform 
advertising by indirection. Other action is possible. An increase of 
government specifications would help, although not as much as is 
often thought, and they would require an enormous amount of 
advertising. What is most needed for American consumption is 
training in art and taste in a generous consumption of goods, if 
such there can be. If beauty is profitable, no manufacturer is de- 
sirous of producing crudity or vulgarity. Advertising, whether for 
good or ill, is the greatest force at work against the traditional 
economy of an age-long poverty as well as that of our own pioneer 
period; it is almost the only force at work against puritanism in 


consumption. It can infuse art into the things of life; and it will, 
if such an art is possible, and if those who realize what it is will 
let the people know. 

Intelligent and honest advertising men, at least, will have 
no difficulty in recognizing this as a piece of advertising copy 
about advertising. Like practically all advertising copy it is a 
piece of special pleading and its appearance in an otherwise 
excellently edited reference work is calamitous enough in all 

It may be observed incidentally that Mr. Lyon is a frequent 
contributor to the advertising trade press. He stands well 
within the status quo, not merely of orthodox economic teach- 
ing, but of the advertising business itself. It is natural enough 
that he should rationalize and justify the role of advertising 
in our society, while making the usual pretense of "objec- 

The fact is, of course, that as advertising became powerful 
and respectable it had a good many well-paid jobs to offer 
social scientists, and that none of these jobs tolerated any 
degree of "objectivity" whatsoever: Jobs of teaching mer- 
chandizing and market analysis in schools of business admin- 
istration; jobs for statisticians as directors of research in 
advertising agencies; jobs for psychologists in testing new 
devices of cozenage, measuring "consumer reactions," etc. 
There can be no doubt as to whom these social scientists 
belong. They belong to the advertising business, and they can 
no more write "objectively" about that business than a copy 
writer can write objectively about his client's gargles and 

With the rapid growth of the schools of business adminis- 
tration since the war, these business-minded economists, psy- 
chologists, statisticians, etc., came to rival in number and in 
influence their colleagues in the departments of economics 
and psychology proper. But even the strictly academic social 

scientists, practitioners of a "purer" discipline, found increas- 
ing difficulty in sustaining their claim of "objectivity" and 
the younger ones, especially the economists, pretty much gave 
it up. Both the motivation and the futility of this claim are 
well analyzed by Mr. Sidney Hook in an unpublished manu- 

The fascination of physical science for the social theorists is easy 
to explain. Not only does it possess the magic of success, but what 
is vastly more important, the promises of agreements and objec- 
tivity. In the popular mind, to be objective and to be "scientific" 
are practically synonymous terms. What is more natural, therefore, 
than the fact that in a field in which prejudice, bias, selective em- 
phasis are notorious, there should be a constant appeal to a neutral 
point of view. It is this quest for objective truth from a neutral 
point of view, independent of value judgments, which has become 
the great fetich of American social science. 

It cannot be emphasized too strongly that the social activity 
which contributes the subject matter of the social sciences is an 
activity carried on by human beings in pursuit of definite ends. If 
we take these ends as our starting point nothing is clearer than the 
fact that these ends, whether they be of individuals or of classes, 
conflict. Social conflicts are a real and permanent feature of the 
society in which we live. Every attempt to develop an objective 
social science which will do for social organization what science has 
done for technology must grapple with the difficulty that there are 
as many directions in which social reorganization may be attempted 
as there are social classes. The attempt to evade this class conflict 
and to refuse to regard it under existing conditions as fundamental 
is behind the strenuous effort to emulate the "exact sciences" in 
which the only recognized conflict is between the "true" and the 

Taking, as Mr. Hook suggests, the ends sought by adver- 
tising as the proper starting point for a consideration of the 
phenomenon, let us return to Mr. Lyon's forensic summation 

and see what it amounts to. He says: "Consumer advertising 
is the first rough effort of a society becoming prosperous to 
teach itself the use of the relatively great wealth of new 
resources, new techniques and a reorganized production 
method." In the first place, advertising is conducted by and 
for advertisers, and the dissemination of a material culture 
which it accomplishes is strictly in the interest of the adver- 
tiser, primarily, and of the total apparatus of the advertising 
business secondarily. The advertiser is concerned with "teach- 
ing" the consumer only in so far as such teaching profits the 
advertiser and the routine product of advertising is therefore 
pretty consistently mis-educational rather than genuinely 
educational. This "teaching" involves not merely huge eco- 
nomic wastes but a definite warping and conditioning of the 
consumer's value judgments into conformity with the profit- 
motivated interests of the advertiser. 

Mr. Lyon proposes, by implication, a "patient teaching of 
standards of taste which will reform advertising by indirec- 
tion." A teaching by whom and for whom? Advertising is 
itself a tremendous "educational" effort which operates in 
the interest of the advertiser with incidental profit to the 
consumer only in so far as he can disentangle the truth from 
a mass of special pleading, this incidental profit being vastly 
overbalanced by the mis-educational pressures exerted not 
merely on his pocketbook but upon his "taste," that is to say, 
his value judgments. Advertising, as Veblen said, is not merely 
an enterprise in sales promotion, but an enterprise in the pro- 
duction of customers which necessarily becomes an enterprise 
in "creative psychiatry." Does Mr. Lyon propose that this 
huge interested mis-educational and anti-cultural activity be 
balanced and corrected by another educational activity? In 
whose interest? Financed and conducted by whom? By Con- 
sumers' Research, perhaps? By government? But why should 
any government which pretends to govern in the interests of 
the people as a whole proceed by "indirection"; that is to say, 

educate consumers to resist in their own interest the "educa- 
tion" which advertisers disseminate in their interest? Wouldn't 
it be simpler to eliminate your negatives first and then see how 
much and what kind of positive education is required? 

Advertising, says Mr. Lyon, "is almost the only force at 
work against puritanism in consumption." By what right and 
in whose behalf does he introduce this value judgment into 
his argument? Maybe our people would prefer a little more 
puritanism in consumption, intolerable as such an attitude 
may be to advertisers operating in the "surplus economy" 
phase of industrial capitalism. And does advertising really 
work against puritanism in consumption? What do you mean, 
puritanism in consumption? Buying wheat for what it is 
worth instead of "puffed wheat" at eight times as much? 
Buying a radio instead of shoes for the baby? 

Advertising, says Mr. Lyon, "can infuse art into the things 
of life, if such an art is possible, and if those who realize what 
it is will let the people know." How? By more advertising, 
doubtless, along the lines so frequently proposed by Mr. Bruce 
Barton and Mr. Walter Pitkin in the interests, not of the 
"people" but of the advertiser and the advertising business? 

One gives space to such lamentable rationalizers as Mr. 
Lyon only because he represents so typically the values, atti- 
tudes and motives of the ad-man's pseudoculture as they are 
currently set forth by advertising apologists. We shall en- 
counter precisely the same kind of logical jabberwocky when 
we come to consider the radio and the movies. Meanwhile, 
let us have a look at the role of the psychologists. 




How Am I Doing? 

ADVERTISING, defined as the technique of producing cus- 
tomers, rather than the technique of selling goods and services, 
employs well-known psychological devices, and the advertis- 
ing man is, in fact, a journeyman psychologist. Academic and 
business school psychologists are therefore naturally and prop- 
erly interested in advertising as a field of study. But when the 
quality and effects of this interest are examined, there would 
appear to be a conflict between the layman's naive view of 
psychology as a disinterested "objective" scientific discipline, 
and certain current activities of academic psychologists in 
the field of applied psychology. 

In 1920, the founder of the American school of "Behavior- 
ism," Dr. John B. Watson, resigned his professorship at Johns 
Hopkins and entered the employ of the J. Walter Thompson 
Advertising Agency. Psychologists have questioned the origi- 
nality and value of Dr. Watson's contributions to the young 
science of psychology. But his contributions, as a business 
man, to the technique of advertising are outstanding. 

The J. Walter Thompson Company is one of the largest and 
most consistently successful advertising agencies in the world. 
Over the past fourteen years the advertising which it has 
turned out has betrayed increasingly the touch of the master's 
hand. It is good advertising, effective advertising. It is also 
more or less unscrupulous, judged by ethical standards, even 
the ethical standards of the advertising profession itself. It is 


natural that this should be so, since ethical considerations are 
irrelevant to the application of scientific method in the ex- 
ploitation of the consumer. 

Consider the advertising of such products as Fleischmann's 
Yeast, Woodbury's Facial Soap, Lifebuoy Soap, Pond's Van- 
ishing Cream, etc. all J. Walter Thompson accounts of long 
standing. In this and other advertising prepared by this 
agency, the fear-sex-emulation formula is used systematically 
to "condition the reflexes" of the reader into conformity with 
the profit-motivated interests of the advertiser. By putting 
the bought-and-paid-f or testimonial technique on a mass pro- 
duction basis, this agency has doubtless achieved important 
economies for the advertiser in the production of customers. 
Dr. "Watson's agency was also one of the leaders in the adapta- 
tion to advertising of the story-in-pictures-balloon technique 
borrowed from Hogarth via the tabloids. Objections on the 
score of ethics and taste are met by the realistic argument 
that the market for these products consists chiefly of fourteen- 
year-old intelligences, and that the unedifying means used to 
convert these morons into customers are justified by the ends 
achieved: the profits accruing to the advertiser, the internal 
and external cleanliness of the moron, and the fixation of 
systematized illusions in the minds of the public, necessary 
to the use and wont of an acquisitive society. 

Nothing succeeds like success. Probably Dr. Watson was 
never obliged to ask his employers, "How am I doing?" His 
achievements were manifest, and his present salary as vice 
president of his agency is reputed to be four times the maxi- 
mum stipend of a university professor. 

Nothing succeeds like success. It may well be alleged that 
the prestige of business dominates the American psychology, 
not excepting the psychology of American psychologists. 
Veblen, whose approach to economics was through social psy- 
chology and the analysis of institutional arrangements, had 
an Olympian respect for himself, and no respect whatever 


for business. But in terms of pecuniary aggrandizement and 
academic kudos, Veblen got nowhere during his lifetime. 
Hence it was natural that in the field of applied psychology, 
contemporary psychologists would have chosen to follow 
Watson rather than Veblen. 

In 1921, the year following the elevation of Dr. Watson's 
talents to the realms of pecuniary accumulation, an organiza- 
tion called the Psychological Corporation was incorporated 
under the laws of the State of New York. 

The stock of the corporation is held by some 300 American 
psychologists, all of them members of the American Psycho- 
logical Association, and most of them having the status of 
professor or assistant professor in American universities and 

The second article of the corporation's charter reads as 

The objects and powers of this corporation shall be the advance- 
ment of psychology and the promotion of the useful applications 
of psychology. It shall have power to enter into contracts for the 
execution of psychological work, to render expert services involving 
the application of psychology to educational, business, administra- 
tive and other problems, and to do all other things not inconsistent 
with the law under which this corporation is organized, to advance 
psychology and to promote its useful applications. 

This article is quoted in one of the sales pamphlets issued by 
the corporation and is supplemented by the following para- 

In the hands of those properly qualified, psychology can be ap- 
plied usefully to many problems of business and industry, and of 
educational, vocational and personal adjustment. The purpose of the 
Psychological Corporation is to promote such applications of the 
science and to prevent, where possible, its exploitation by pseudo- 
scientists. A portion of all fees for services rendered by the cor- 

poration is devoted to research and the advancement of scientific 
knowledge of human behavior. 

At a special meeting of the stockholders and representatives 
of the corporation, held in conjunction with the 1933 con- 
vention of the American Psychological Association at Chi- 
cago, Dr. Henry C. Link, Secretary and Treasurer of the 
corporation, presented his report. In effect Dr. Link was ap- 
pealing to the value judgments of his colleagues. He was 
saying: the corporation has been doing such and such things. 
Business, especially the advertising business, thinks we have 
been doing pretty well. How do you think we have been 

There was a row, a fairly loud row, judged by academic 
standards, and it got into the papers. Some of the assembled 
psychologists, themselves stockholders in the corporation, 
seemed to feel that Dr. Link had sold the integrity, the purity 
of American psychology down the river to the advertising 
business. Among the more forthright objectors was Dr. A. W. 
Kornhauser, associate professor of Business Psychology at the 
University of Chicago. It is interesting to note that the most 
strenuous objection came, not from one of the science-for- 
science's-sake psychologists, but from a business school pro- 
fessor. Perhaps it was because Dr. Kornhauser is more aware 
of the nature and methods of business than some of his less 
sophisticated associates. But before we discuss this row, it will 
be necessary to describe briefly the sort of thing that the 
Psychological Corporation had been doing. 

Perhaps the most distinguished achievement to which Dr. 
Link pointed with pride was co-operative study, carried on 
by sixty psychologists, of the effectiveness of advertising, 
particularly among housewives. Dr. Link's report of this 
study was published in the January, 1933, issue of the Harvard 
Business Review. 

Between March 16 and April 4, 1933, 1,578 housewives 


in 15 widely scattered cities and towns were interviewed 
by instructors and graduate students of psychology work- 
ing under the supervision of some fifteen assorted Ph. D.'s 
and M. A.'s. They used a test questionnaire which asked such 
questions as the following: 

What canned fruit company advertises "Just the Center Slices"? 
What toothpaste advertises "Heavens! Buddy must have a girl!"? 
What product used in automobiles uses pictures of little black, dogs 
in its advertising? What product asks "What is the critical age of 
the skin"? What toothpaste advertises "Pink Toothbrush"? What 
product for use in automobiles has been using advertisements show- 
ing pictures of fish, tigers, flying geese and other animals? What do 
85% of dentists recommend (according to an advertisement) for 
purifying the breath? What soap advertises "I learned from a beauty 
expert how to hold my husband"? What does, for a product used in 
automobiles, what butter does for bread? What company or product 
advertised "This is Mrs. F. C. Adgerton of Spokane, Washington"? 
What company advertises "Don't wait till the doctor tells you to 
keep of your feet"? What electric refrigerator is "Dual-automatic"? 
What company advertises a widely used toilet product as often 
containing "harmful acids"? 

There is a total of twenty-seven questions of this sort on 
the questionnaire and the housewives had to answer all of 
them. The mind shrinks from contemplating either the 
amount of high-powered psychological persuasion required 
to hold them to their task, or the sufferings endured by these 
1,578 female guinea pigs in the cause of "science." How many 
doorbells had to be rung before one willing housewife was 
captured? Did they suffer? And how much? Dr. Link should 
have answered those questions, too. I am sure the answers 
would prove something, although I am not sure just what. 

What was proved, beyond question, when the question- 
naires were all turned in, collated, tabulated, analyzed, etc., 
by the most rigorous scientific methods, was, that, sure 

enough, housewives did read advertising. I quote from Dr. 
Link's article: 

The outstanding result of this test is the proof of the amazing 
influence which advertising can and often does exert. For example, 
1,090 or 69% of the 1,578 housewives answered "Chase & San- 
born" to the question about the "Date on the can." The correct 
answer, "Ipana" was given by 943 or 59.7% of these women to the 
question regarding "Pink Toothbrush." On the other hand, the 
themes of certain very extensive campaigns registered correctly 
among only 15.65, 11.3%, and even 7% of these housewives. In 
some cases, single advertisements, appearing only once, registered 
better than campaigns which had run in all the major magazines 
for six months, a year, or longer. That is to say, some advertising 
was 50, 100 or 150 times more effective, as measured by this test, 
than other advertising. The most conspicuous example of this was 
the result of the question, What soap advertises "Stop those runs 
in stockings"? This was the headline, explained in the copy, of a 
full-page advertisement for Lux soap which had appeared in just 
one of the leading women's magazines. Almost one half, of the 
housewives, 47.7%, answered "Lux." This one insertion, costing 
about $8,000, was found six times as effective as a year's campaign 
advertising another article and costing about a million dollars, a 
ratio of 750 to i. The average of correct answers to the thirteen 
most effective campaigns or advertisements was 36.3%. The aver- 
age for the fourteen least effective was 8.8%. 

The writer is not qualified to judge the scientific integrity 
of Dr. Link's methods. But the findings of this study are 
manifestly highly interesting and useful to advertisers, adver- 
tising agencies and advertising managers of publications, who, 
incidentally got all this research for nothing. It was done 
gratuitously by the co-operating psychologists, assistants 
and students, as a disinterested effort toward the "advance- 
ment of scientific knowledge of human behavior." . . . Well, 
perhaps not wholly disinterested. The published study was in 


effect, a free sample and an advertisement of the sort of thing 
the Psychological Corporation is equipped to do. Doubtless 
it was a successful advertisement, since the corporation dur- 
ing 1933 conducted many scientific investigations, sponsored 
and paid for by individual advertisers, and conducted by its 
wideflung organization of psychology professors, instructors 
and students. 

In other words, what Dr. Link was presenting proudly to 
his assembled colleagues was a successful advertising busi- 
ness, operating efficiently according to current standards, and 
using advertising to sell its services. Incidentally this busi- 
ness is in a position to cut the market price for advertising 
research because public and philanthropic funds help to sup- 
port the co-operating professors, and they in turn are able to 
use their students as Tom Sawyer labor, sustained wholly or 
in part by the pure passion of science. 

Whether "scientific" or not, that study of 1,578 house- 
wives was indubitably a contribution. To whom and for 
what end? Not to science, but to the advertising business, to 
the end that it might conduct more efficiently its effort to 
"teach the use of the relatively great wealth, of new resources, 
new techniques and a reorganized production method." (L. 
S. Lyon's definition in the Encyclopedia of Social Sciences) . 

This effort makes systematic use of techniques which are 
most accurately characterized by Veblen's phrase: "creative 
psychiatry." For example, one of the advertising campaigns 
tested was that of Ipana Toothpaste, which for the past ten 
years or more has been parroting "Pink Toothbrush," in the 
effort to make people worry about their gums and buy an 
expensive toothpaste, the use of which is alleged to prevent 
the gums from bleeding, the advertising being the customary 
melange of half-truth, inference and ambiguity. 

When, therefore, Dr. Link appealed to the suffrages of his 
professional colleagues, it was upon the following grounds: 
that the Psychological Corporation has established efficient 

machinery by which its members might sell their scientific 
abilities and the leg work of their students to advertisers en- 
gaged, to quote Veblen once more, in "the creative guidance 
of habit and bias, by recourse to shock effects, tropismatic 
reactions, animal orientation, forced movements, fixation of 
ideas, verbal intoxication. ... A trading on that range of 
human infirmities which blossom in devout observances and 
fruit in the psychopathic wards." 

What happened? The next annual meeting of the Board 
of Directors of the Psychological Corporation was held in 
New York on Dec. i, 1933. The managing director, Dr. 
Paul S. Achilles, explained that the objections of Dr. Korn- 
hauser and others may have arisen from insufficient knowl- 
edge on the part of many psychologists of the charter and 
purposes of the corporation and the nature and extent of its 
current activities. He said that inasmuch as the corporation 
had never been subsidized nor conceived as an organization 
to be supported by subsidies, his efforts for the past three 
years had necessarily been concentrated chiefly on putting the 
corporation on a self-sustaining basis. 

It was Dr. Achilles' opinion that the two basic assumptions 
on which the corporation was founded are: (i) That psy- 
chologists render services of economic value; and (2) that a 
business organization of co-operative psychologists rendering 
such services could not only be self-supporting and useful 
to the science but could earn funds for research and improve- 
ment of services. He felt that only as the corporation suc- 
ceeded first in demonstrating its capacity for self-support 
through rendering creditable and marketable services such 
as it was now offering could it hope to achieve its larger aims. 
In brief his feeling was that it was equally if not more re- 
spectable for psychologists to earn their own way and their 
funds for research than to depend on subsidies. 

Dr. W. S. Woodworth, of Columbia, expressed the opinion 
that one of the original aims of the corporation was to have 


frankly a commercial standing so that it could do business 
with business men with more freedom and directness than a 
university professor usually feels that he can. Further, in 
regard to the corporation's market survey work, that this 
seemed a legitimate field and that the mere fact that a mar- 
ket study involved personal interviewing did not make it 
unworthy or undignified. 

The matter was clinched by the treasurer's report showing 
an 125% increase of gross receipts by the corporation over 
the preceding year, and payments of $7,000 to psychologists 
representing the corporation and their students. The cor- 
poration, which had been in the red for some time, was 
climbing out. Dr. Achilles (who incidentally has been serving 
without salary) and Dr. Link were re-elected as managing 
director and secretary-treasurer respectively. Other names 
on the present list of officers and directors are J. McKeen 
Cattell, E. L. Thorndike, L. M. Terman, Walter Dill Scott, 
W. V. B. Bingham, A. T. Poffenberger, R. S. Woodworth and 
Ronsis Likert. 

So that is that, as we used to say when the client laid down 
the law at an advertising conference. It looks bad for my old 
friends in the research departments of the advertising agencies. 
If the Psychological Corporation, under its present efficient 
management, continues to progress, this sweated academic 
scab labor is going to take the bread out of the mouths of a 
lot of families I know in Bronxville, Great Neck and else- 
where. Doubtless, too, the standards of advertising research 
will be greatly improved, when the job is taken over by 
psychologists instead of the more or less irresponsible appren- 
tices in the agencies to whom such work is ordinarily assigned. 

In the old days before the war I remember that advertis- 
ing research was considered to be something of a joke. You 
knew the answer before you started out. Your job was to 
get the documents. We, too, went out with questionnaires, 
were chased down the street by irate Italian green grocers, 


and got our toes caught in doors closed energetically by un- 
co-operative housewives. It really wasn't so very dignified, 
Dr. Woodworth, but it had its humorous compensations and 
it kept one in the open air. I recall a two-hundred-pound 
football player who on graduation drifted into an advertis- 
ing agency where I worked and was assigned to research. It 
was the middle of July, and he had to interview some fifty 
housewives residing somewhere in the Oranges. I forget what 
he had to ask them. Did they use Gypso, maybe, and if not 
why not? 

His name was call him Mr. Retriever. Two days later, 
Retriever stumbled back into the office in a state of moral 
and physical exhaustion. Somebody was callous enough to 
ask him how he had been doing and how he felt. 

'Tve lost twenty pounds," said Mr. Retriever. "I feel like 
the hobo who started cross the continent by freight. He got 
aboard the car next the engine and the brakeman kicked him 
off. He grabbed the next car and got aboard. The brakeman 
kicked him off, but he scrambled back into the third car. 
This ritual continued until the train stopped at a way sta- 
tion, when the hobo walked to the front of the train and got 
aboard the first car. The brakeman spotted him and in ex- 
asperation demanded: "Brother, where in hell are you going?" 
"I'm going to Kansas City," replied the hobo, "if my tail 
holds out." 

The sacrifices of dignity demanded of an advertising re- 
searcher are in fact extreme. I recall a baby- faced collegian 
who rang a doorbell somewhere in the wilds of Bergen 
County. There appeared in the doorway a comely middle- 
aged German woman who listened silently to his patter, 
meanwhile scrutinizing him shrewdly. When he finished, 
she gave him a ravishing smile and said: "I know what you 
want. You want a piece of apfelkuchen." The collegian 
blushed, searched his conscience and said: "Yes." This par- 
ticular anecdote has a Rabelaisian sequel which the writer 


feels obliged to withhold, in deference to the feelings of the 
Better Business Bureau. In a contribution to the Nov. 9,, 
1933, issue of Printers 9 Ink, Dr. Link states that "during the 
last two years we have interviewed almost 12,000 women in 
their homes, in more than sixty cities and towns." One is sure 
that the anecdotal literature of advertising research has been 
greatly enriched by these investigations. 

It is possible, of course, that the Psychological Corporation, 
representing as it does the idealism and public spirit of Ameri- 
can psychologists, is secretly engaged in boring from within 
the advertising business; one notes the repeated references ta 
the scientific research which these pot-boiling activities are 
designed to finance. Possibly the corporation intends to take 
ias a point of departure Veblen's description of advertising as 
an enterprise in "creative psychiatry," and, using the data 
obtained by its commercially sponsored investigations, in- 
stitute studies designed to show just what the advertising 
business has done to improve or debauch the mental, ethical 
and moral level of the average American. An attitude of 
suspended judgment is therefore indicated. The difficulty is 
that a study such as that above suggested would require some 
framework of value judgment, which would be most un- 
scientific. And if, in spite of this objection, the corporation 
elected to make such a study, to whom would it report its 
results, asking again, "How am I doing?" 




ALTHOUGH not a part of the advertising business proper, 
the movie industry maintains and is maintained by a huge 
and efficiently operated advertising apparatus the dozen or 
so popular movie magazines whose combined circulation of 
over 3,000,000 ranks next in volume to that of the women's 

These magazines serve in effect as house organs for the 
$42,000,000,000 movie industry which every week spreads 
its wares before 77,000,000 American movie-goers, including 
28,000,000 minors. But like other mass and class publica- 
tions these movie magazines are also house organs for their 
advertisers chiefly manufacturers of cosmetics, drugs and 
fashion goods. How this dual role is worked out and how the 
movie magazines articulate into the general economic scheme 
of the movie industry becomes at once apparent when we 
examine their promotion literature. I quote from a loose- 
leaf promotion booklet issued by Photoplay Magazine, the 
largest and most successful of the movie magazines: 

Photoplay offers you a concentrated, compact audience of 600,- 
ooo predominantly younger women the New Wanters . . . Pho- 
toplay ... is outstandingly tributary to the great sales-making, 
want-building influence of the screen. 

We begin to glimpse what is perhaps the major role of the 


movie in our society, and a little later, in a signed statement 
by the editor, Mr. James R. Quirk, we find this role explicitly 

It became increasingly apparent to the publishers of Photoplay 
that the vast public who spent millions through motion picture 
box offices was interested in more than the stories flashed upon the 
screen; that they were absorbing something beyond the vicarious 
emotions and adventures of the screen folk. 

The millions of young women who attended motion pictures 
began to realise that, closely observing the stars and leading women 
of the screen, they could take lessons to enhance their own attrac- 
tiveness and personality. Hollywood became the beauty center of 
the world. . . . 

Following closely the new interests which the motion picture 
provoked in the minds of the audience, and the desires of millions 
of women to profit by their achievement of beauty, the magazine 
sent experts on beauty and fashions and famous photographers to 
Hollywood and reported to its readers every new phase of the de- 
velopment of feminine attractiveness. These subjects today share 
in basic importance with the news of Hollywood pictures and 

That made Photoplay outstanding as a medium for advertisers. 
... Its readers are inspired by the editorial pages to buy the goods 
shown in its advertising pages. The editorial and advertising in- 
terests dovetail perfectly. 

Its fashion and beauty editors, all of whom have had training in 
actual merchandising, are recognized by the trades as experts. Such 
stores as Marshall Field & Company of Chicago use its fashion 
pages in their selections and merchandising, and credit Photoplay 
in their newspaper advertising, recognizing the combined style 
promotion power of the screen and the magazine. Thousands of 
beauty shops throughout the country receive and display its an- 
nouncements of new Hollywood coiffures and new beauty methods 
of the most beautiful stars. 

One somehow gets the impression that Mr. Quirk knows 

what the motion picture industry is all about and what it is 
for. This impression is confirmed when we note that Photo- 
play lists over 80 well-known manufacturers of drugs, cos- 
metics and fashion goods among its 1931-32 advertisers. It 
is further confirmed by the following even more explicit 
statement of the nature of the business, quoted from the same 

When women go to the movies they go to see themselves not in 
the mirror but in the ideal world of fancy. During that hour or 
two in the romantic world of make-believe, potent influences 
are at work. New desires are instilled, new wants implanted, new 
impulses to spend are aroused. These impulses may be at the moment 
only vague longings, but sooner or later they will crystallize into 
definite wants. 

When the American woman sees her favorite screen actress and 
notes with very keen interest every detail of her attire . . . she is 
immersed in that mood which makes her most receptive to the 
suggestion that she must have these lovely things for her own . . . 
and she will scheme and plan to have for her own the charming 
frocks and appealing millinery, the smart footwear, the seductive 
furs and wraps all the tempting possessions which the silver 
screen has so seductively exposed to her view. . . . 

The motion picture paves the -way. Photoplay carries on, renew- 
ing the impulses caught on the screen. It gives your product's ad- 
dress and telephone number. 

The facts are as stated, and the argument is logical and 
convincing. It is clinched on the next page by a skillful 
reference to what is without doubt the major asset of this 
movie-advertising coalition, which is Youth. 

Last year two million, next year two million, in the next ten 
years twenty million, young men and women will come of age. . . . 

They will want necessities, pleasures, luxuries. And they will get 
them because their buying temperature is high. ... It will pay 


you handsomely to find the best point of contact with these mil- 
lions of new wanters. It will pay you to lay your wares before 
them in the atmosphere of enthusiasm and romance in which the 
desire to own the good things of life is engendered. . . . Photo- 
play's audience, 600,000 strong, is predominantly -with the younger 

What is the nature of this admirable piece of promotion 
literature, prepared under the direction of one of America's 
leading publisher's consultants? 

It is, quite evidently, by way of being applied sociology 
and psychology. It is supplemented by tables and graphs 
showing the buying power of Photoplay's readers, these be- 
ing based on the research of Daniel Starch, Ph. D., who op- 
erates a well-known and successful commercial research 
bureau. Dr. Starch's figures seem startlingly high, but there is 
really no good reason for supposing that his study was less 
honest, less "objective," than that of the group of sociologists, 
psychologists and educators who conducted the Payne Fund 
study of the motion picture with respect to its influence 
upon children and adolescents. Dr. Starch was employed by 
the allied motion picture-advertising business which has an 
axe to grind, and admits it. The Payne Fund investigation 
was financed by a philanthropic foundation and instigated 
by a middle-class reform organization, the Motion Picture 
Research Council, which also has an axe to grind, a moral axe, 
if you will. A little later we shall encounter another eminent 
sociologist and psychologist operating in this arena, namely 
Mr. Will Hays, who also has an axe to grind and more or less 
admits it, although in the nature of the case Mr. Hays' opera- 
tions require a lavish output of pragmatic make-believe. 

But first let us attempt to construct, on the foundations 
already laid, a slow-motion picture of what this business is 
and how it works. 

As in all other forms of advertising, the causal sequence 


traces back to mass production as the most profitable tech- 
nique of exploiting the "art and science" of the motion pic- 
ture. Mass production requires mass distribution (including 
block booking and blind booking) and mass advertising; also 
standardization of the product in terms of maximum sal- 
ability and a systematic "production of customers by a pro- 
duction of systematized illusions." The Payne Fund investi- 
gators discovered with horror that between 75 and 80 per 
cent of current motion pictures deal with crime, sex and love 
obstinately refusing to merge the second two categories. 

Surely this is pretty much beside the point; an analysis of 
Shakespeare's plays would probably show an even higher 
content of such subject matter. 

The Photoplay promotion booklet, written by people who 
really know something about the industry, hits the nail on 
the head in emphasizing the standard content of romance, 
luxury and conspicuous expenditure. This is not only the 
commodity of maximum salability, but in the process of its 
manufacture and sale there emerges an important by-product 
which is duly sold to advertisers by the movie magazines. 

Why does the motion picture with a high content of "ro- 
mance," "beauty" and conspicuous expenditure represent 
the standard movie product of maximum salability? Because 
the dominant values of the society are material and acquisi- 
tive. And because the masses of the population, being eco- 
nomically debarred from the attainment of these values in 
real life, love to enjoy them vicariously in the dream world 
of the silver screen. The frustrations of real life are both 
alleviated and sharpened by the pictures. As in the case of 
sex, the imaginative release is only partially satisfying, and 
the female adolescent, particularly, leaves the motion picture 
theatre scheming, planning "to have for her own ... all 
the tempting possessions which the silver screen has so se- 
ductively exposed to her view." From this point Photoplay 
carries on, and renews the sweet torture in both its editorial 


and advertising columns, so that the stenographer goes with- 
out lunch to buy her favorite star's favorite face cream. The 
sales cycle is now completed, and the following mentioned 
profit-makers have duly participated: the producer, distrib- 
utor and exhibitor of the motion picture; the motion picture 
magazine; Dr. Starch, who helped to present the merits of the 
motion picture magazine to the advertiser; the advertising 
agency which got a 15 per cent commission on the cost of 
the advertising space; the advertiser and all the distributive 
links ending with the drug store that sold the stenographer 
the vanishing cream (net manufacturing cost eight cents, 
retail price $1.00). 

But we are not through yet. The exploitative process as 
above outlined runs counter to the residual Puritanism, both 
consumptive and sexual of the American middle class, par- 
ticularly the middle-class resident in that section of America 
referred to in the shop talk of the industry as "the Bible 
Belt." The movie industry is obliged, for honest commer- 
cial reasons, to break down this Puritanism. But the Puri- 
tans feel obliged to organize and effectuate their sales resist- 
ance, if only to protect their children from the corruptive 
influence of the movie industry. They also feel morally 
obliged to protect the children and adolescents of the lower 
classes and prevent them from enjoying almost the only kind 
of emotional release which their economic condition permits 

So censorship movements spring up here, there and every- 
where, usually sponsored and financed by the church groups, 
women's clubs, parent-teacher organizations, etc., through 
which the middle class expresses its view of the morals, ex- 
penditure and conduct appropriate for an eighteen-year-old 
proletarian typist. These movements provided jobs and sal- 
aries chiefly for preachers without other "calls" and for 
women's club leaders enjoying more eminence than income. 

Naturally, the industry felt obliged to defend its vested 


interest in the exploitation of the American masses, and spe- 
cifically of the American kiddy, sub-flapper and flapper. That 
made more jobs, and since the industry was better organized 
and in a position to pay adequate salaries to such genuinely 
gifted propagandists as Will Hays, the industry invariably 
won. Mr. Hays makes use of a well-known principle of ap- 
plied sociology which is expressed in the formula: "If you 
can't beat 'em, join 'em." With his characteristic evangelical 
enthusiasm, Deacon Hays has managed in one way or an- 
other to "join" almost every movie-reform movement which 
has appeared on the horizon during his long tenure of office 
as President of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors 
of America, Inc., popularly known as the "Hays office." 

The public relations machinery operated by the Hays of- 
fice is in effect a two-way system of diplomatic communica- 
tion between the industry and the various pressure groups 
which represent public opinion as applied to the movies. 
Since Mr. Hays is employed by and responsible to the industry, 
he is expected to see that these pressure groups interfere as 
little as possible with the business as usual of the movies. But 
being a man of talent, and a sociologist of parts, the good 
deacon does a lot better than that. He strives always, and 
often with notable success, to induce these reform groups to 
become propagandists for the Hays office and salesmen of the 
Hollywood product, to the end that the Hays office, far from 
being merely a defense against censorship, may become a 
positive and useful sales promotion department for the 
industry as a whole. With this in view he has built up three 
major instrumentalities: (i) the National Board of Review, 
which clears and effectuates the judgments of ten organized 
pre-viewing groups: The International Federation of Catholic 
Alumnae, National Council of Jewish Women, National 
Society of Daughters of the American Revolution, the Con- 
gress of Parents and Teachers, National Society of New Eng- 
land Women, General Federation of Women's Clubs, 


Women's University Club of Los Angeles, Boy Scouts of 
America and Young Men's Christian Association. Note that 
these are all middle-class organizations, chosen because it is in 
middle-class pressure groups that censorship movements origi- 
nate, although the bulk of the industry's income is derived 
from the lower classes and lower middle classes. In other words 
representatives of the ruling middle and upper classes are 
invited to pass on what movies the masses are permitted to 

(2) The local Motion Picture Councils, Better Film Com- 
mittees, etc., consisting usually of club women, church 
women and local parent-teacher groups organized to deal 
with the 12,000 "neighborhood theatre situations" into which 
Mr. Hays breaks down his field organization problem. In 
3,000 of these "situations" there is today a public group of 
some kind working with the theatre manager, and the mem- 
bership of these groups is somewhere between 50,000 and 

(3) The Studio Relations Committee in Hollywood, 
which digests and clears the data coming in from the field, 
determines broad lines of production policy as it is affected 
by the organized opinion of these groups, and enables each 
producer to learn from the mistakes of the others. 

Now watch what happens when this machinery goes into 
action. Some of these pre- viewing groups pass some pictures; 
others pass other pictures. In the end most 'of the pictures 
are likely to be passed by some one of the groups. This per- 
mits Dr. Hays to announce in his annual report for 1932 that 
of 476 feature films reviewed by seven committees 413 
(86.7%) were "variously endorsed for family, adult and 
child entertainment ... by one or more of these commit- 
tees." There we have not merely censorship reduced to in- 
nocuity, but a positive testimonial asset which the Hays 
office duly capitalizes by spreading the glad news to his field 
organization that "unsophisticated films pay . . . more than 

8o per cent of box-office champions of last year also endorsed 
in National Previewing Groups selections." And the motion 
picture committee of the General Federation of Women's 
Clubs sends out a statement of its program for the year urg- 
ing each local club committee to take as its slogan, "Be Bet- 
ter Film Buyers." 

But this isn't all. When the motion picture code hearings 
were held in Washington a group of representative club 
women appeared to protest against the evil of double fea- 
tures, which the producers also object to for profit reasons. 
And when Henry James Forman's book, Our Movie-Made 
Children, appeared the Pennsylvania Clubwoman, according 
to an article in the Christian Century, attacked this popular- 
ization of the Payne Fund studies and the Motion Picture 
Research Council which instigated these studies. 

So that a neutral layman, listening to the hue and clamor 
about the movies, finds it a bit difficult to determine whether 
the Hays office has joined the reformers or the reformers 
have joined the Hays office. But the result is not in doubt. 
The industry has won every battle thus far, including the 
battle of Washington at which the motion picture code was 
signed. In this code the industry got practically everything it 
asked for, including an undisturbed continuance of the blind 
booking and block booking practices by which the big pro- 
ducers are enabled to ensure a part of their market in advance 
of production. What did the reformers get? They got Presi- 
dent-Emeritus Abbott Lawrence Lowell, of Sacco and Vanzetti 
fame, sitting on a committee with Eddie Cantor and Marie 
Dressier to safeguard the morality of the movies and the 
interests of the artists. This was supposed not to be funny, 
but Dr. Lowell couldn't see it that way and resigned. Dr. 
Lowell is now president of the Motion Picture Research Coun- 
cil, which instigated the Payne Fund studies of the effects 
of the motion pictures upon children, and that was also a 
serious matter. 


Prior to the Payne Fund studies, the reform of the motion 
picture had been almost the exclusive province of preachers, 
club women, parent-teachers, Y. M. C. A. secretaries, Scout 
Masters, etc. Naturally the sociologists, educators, psycholo- 
gists and other academic savants wanted in; there was a con- 
siderable overproduction of social scientists during the late 
New Era, and the universities and colleges were not able to 
absorb the surplus. Moreover, the Great Movie Argument, 
what with one thing and another, and especially Will Hays, 
had become loud, raucous and most unscientific. It was clearly 
up to the social scientists to Establish the Facts. 

The Facts, as determined by eighteen assorted sociologists, 
psychologists and educators, are set forth in nine volumes 
published by Macmillan, and are also summarized and popu- 
larized in a book by Henry James Forman entitled Our 
Movie-Made Children. It took four years to dig up the Facts, 
which, however, turned out to be pretty much what every- 
body knew all the time: that children who attend the movies 
frequently are likely to be stupider than children who don't 
go to the movies at all (this is also probably true of adults) ; 
that very young children are frequently shocked and nerv- 
ously injured by horror pictures; that the movies not only 
reflect our changing sexual mores but also affect them girls 
learn about men from John Gilbert and Clark Gable; boys 
learn about women from Clara Bow and Greta Garbo. Life 
then proceeds to imitate the art and pseudoart of the movies, 
in respect both to sex and to other aspects of conduct. Other 
findings were that children do learn from the movies and 
retain much of what they learn; that the movies constitute 
in effect an independent, profit-motivated educational ap- 
paratus rivalling and sometimes surpassing in influence the 
home and the school; that the movies can be and are used as 
propaganda for and against war, for and against different 
racial groups; that gangster pictures, with or without moral 
endings, tend to teach gangsterism. 


Although the investigators made much pother about the 
"objective" "scientific" nature of this fact-finding study, 
they could scarcely escape value judgments, and Mr. Forman 
frankly applies such judgments in his popularization. They 
are middle-class value judgments, derived from the con- 
ventional mores of the middle-class community, and applied 
to an industry which is organized to serve not the classes, 
but the masses. These value judgments crop out when 
Cecil De Mille's ineffable "King of Kings" is cited as a "good" 
picture, and when Mr. Forman quotes the testimony of high 
school and college youngsters, asked to describe what effect 
the movies had on their lives. A college boy remarks sensibly 
enough : 

The technique of making love to a girl received considerable of 
my attention . . . and it was directly through the movies that I 
learned to kiss a girl on her ears, neck and cheeks, as well as on the 

The implication is clear that such techniques are highly 
reprehensible, whereas on purely objective grounds there 
would appear to be something to be said for them. 

But what the Payne Fund investigators didn't find is almost 
more interesting than what they did find. For instance, they 
failed to remark the role of the movie as commercial prop- 
aganda in promoting the enterprise of the advertiser. The 
consistent class bias of the movies also escaped attention al- 
though it is apparent enough both in the news reels and in 
the feature pictures. During the 1932 Communist-led Hun- 
ger March on Washington the newsreels were even more 
unfair than the press in deriding and misrepresenting the 
marchers. And who ever saw an American movie featuring 
as hero a successful strike leader? 

As one of our three major instruments of social communica- 
tion, the movie is an instrument of rule. Naturally, in a 


business-ruled society, the movie serves the propaganda re- 
quirements of business, both as to commerce and politics. 
Why did the industry get what it wanted and the reformers 
get nothing when the movie code was signed? Isn't it pos- 
sible that the administration felt that it needed the good-will 
of the industry in order to stay in office? 

Dr. W. W. Charters, director of the four-year study fi- 
nanced by the Payne Fund, remarks in his introduction to 
Mr. Forman's volume: "the commercial movies present a 
critical and complicated situation in which the whole-hearted 
and sincere co-operation of the producers with parents and 
public is essential to discover how to use motion pictures to 
the best advantage of children." 

One is tempted to ask "What parents and what public?" 
The middle-class, more or less religious, more or less Puritan 
parents would doubtless like a good deal less frank sex in 
the movies, more "education" and more "wholesome" ro- 
mance of the Ladies' Home Journal variety. But the younger 
generation of the great cities might be expected to assert, 
with some justice, that there is both more art and more 
health in the sex movie at its worst than in the average 
woman's magazine romance. There would probably be equally 
violent disagreement concerning other varieties of social con- 
tent. The radical labor movement, if it were strong enough 
to have an effective voice in the reform of the movies, would 
presumably demand that the producers stop using news reels 
and feature pictures as anti-labor propaganda, and even give 
them an occasional picture with a strike leader as hero. One 
doubts that the middle-class reform groups would either 
make or support such a demand. 

The dilemma, which would have become apparent if, as 
originally planned, a competent and sufficiently unorthodox 
economist had been included in the group that made the 
Payne Fund study, is that the movie industry represents Big 
Business operating in a cultural field, but for purely com- 


mercial purposes. The industry will co-operate "whole- 
heartedly and sincerely" with anybody and everybody for the 
good of the industry as determined by box office receipts. 
Pressure groups, whether middle-class or proletarian, which 
would like to see a different set of value judgments, will in 
the end, one suspects, be obliged to shoot their own movies 
and build their own audiences. 

No mention has been made of the use of the movie for 
direct advertising purposes. The "sponsored" movie a more 
or less entertaining short subject, advertising a commercial 
product or service and introduced into a regular program 
was tentatively tried out in 1929 and 1930. The idea was to 
sell the advertiser a given run of his sponsored short in chain 
theatres. The theatres "owned" their audiences, or thought 
they did, and would have been glad to sell the "fans" at so 
much a head to the advertisers. But the audiences proved 
restive and the idea was pretty much abandoned. A certain 
modicum of two-timing is observable in the current run of 
pictures, but it ordinarily takes the form of propaganda 
rather than of advertising. The industry frequently needs to 
use the paraphernalia of the army and the navy. It is therefore 
good business to permit a percentage of army and navy prop- 
aganda in the pictures. As for the use of the pictures and en- 
dorsements of movie stars in advertising, that is merely a 
by-product of the industry and a part of its promotion tech- 
nique. Whether or not the public credits the sincerity of these 
endorsements is unimportant; they sell goods and they advertise 
the star. 





RADIO broadcasting came into the world like a lost child 
born too soon and bearing the birthmark of a world culture 
which may never be achieved. 

Her begetters, the physicists and engineers, didn't know 
what to make of the creature. That she was wistful for a 
world not yet born did not occur to them. Indeed her be- 
getting was in a sense accidental. They had been thinking of 
something else. And as for bringing her up, that was scarcely 
their affair. Men of science are notoriously neglectful of their 
technical progeny. Observing this neglect an American his- 
torian, Vernon Parrington, was moved to remark that "science 
has become the drab and slut of industry." 

Radio had to belong to somebody. She couldn't belong to 
nobody. So one day Business picked her up off the street and 
put her to work selling gargles, and gadgets, toothpaste and 
stocks and bonds. What else could have happened? Neither 
art nor education had the prestige or the resources to com- 
mand the services of this new instrument of communication, 
even if they had had anything important to communicate, 
which may be doubted. Government? But in America gov- 
ernment was business and business was government to a far 
greater degree than in any other country. So that the de- 
velopment of the "art and science of radio broadcasting" 
became in America a business enterprise, instead of a govern- 
ment monopoly as in England and elsewhere in Europe. 


About two years ago, Dr. Lee De Forest, one of the pio- 
jieers of electronic science, and by general concession one of 
trie begetters of radio, encountered the lost child in his travels 
and was inexpressibly shocked: 

"Why should any one want to buy a radio or new tubes for an 
old set?" declaimed the irate inventor, "when nine-tenths of what 
one can hear is the continual drivel of second-rate jazz, sickening 
crooning by degenerate sax players, interrupted by blatant sales 
talk, meaningless but maddening station announcements, impudent 
commands to buy or try, actually imposed over a background of 
what might alone have been good music? Get out into the sticks, 
away from your fine symphony orchestra pickups, and listen for 
twenty-four hours to what eighty per cent of American listeners 
have to endure! Then you'll learn what is wrong with the radio 
industry. It isn't hard times. It is broadcasters' greed which is 
worse. The radio public simply isn't listening in." 

One wonders why Dr. De Forest should have been so sur- 
prised to encounter this Bedlam on the air. Surely he was 
familiar with its terrestrial equivalent. At the moment, in 
fact he was engaged in fighting the Radio Corporation of 
America in the courts. 

The vulgarity and commercial irresponsibility of advertis- 
ing-supported broadcasting have been greatly complained 
about. Yet there is a sense in which the defenders of the 
American system of broadcasting are right. Radio is a new 
instrument of social communication that and nothing more. 
In and of itself it contributed nothing qualitative to the 
culture. It was right, perhaps, or at least inevitable that it 
should communicate precisely the pseudoculture that we 
had evolved. Can any one deny that it did just that? The 
culture, or pseudoculture, was acquisitive, emulative, neurotic 
and disintegrating. Our radio culture is acquisitive, emulative, 
neurotic and disintegrating. The ether has become a great 


mirror in which the social and cultural anomalies of our 
"ad-man's civilization" are grotesquely magnified. The con- 
fusion of voices out of the air merely echoes our terrestrial 

This confusion becomes particularly apparent when at- 
tempts are made to challenge exploitation of radio by busi- 
ness. In the van of such attacks are the educators, marching 
under the banner of "freedom" and "culture" and invoking 
such obsolete political concepts as "States' Rights." Allied 
with the educators is the Fourth Estate. The appeal is to 
"public opinion," expressed and made effective through the 
machinery of representative government in a political de- 
mocracy where one man's vote is as good as another's. But 
we have already had occasion to examine the status of the 
Fourth Estate and of Education in our civilization. The press 
is essentially an advertising business and as such a part of the 
central acquisitive drive of the culture. Education is a formal, 
traditional function which becomes increasingly peripheral, 
decorative and sterile when it adheres to its ideals of disin- 
terested "objectivity" and increasingly pragmatic and voca- 
tional when it attempts to relate itself to the acquisitive real- 
ities of business as usual. The press has a vested interest both 
in the purveying of news and as a medium of advertising; 
commercial broadcasting chiselled into the advertising in- 
come of the press and latterly began to compete in the field 
of news purveying. Hence the interest of the press in "re- 
forming" the radio was strictly competitive and pecuniary 
in quality although, of course, the appeal to public opinion 
was not made in those terms. It may fairly be alleged that 
the interest of the educators was also, and not improperly, a 
job-holding and job-wanting interest, although again the 
appeal to public opinion was not made in those terms. As 
for the artists, the writers, poets, dramatists and critics, who 
might claim a modicum of service from Radio well, art 
is scarcely an organized and independent estate in an acquisi- 


tive society. The artists tend either to accept service as the 
cultural lieutenants of business, to retreat into ivory towers 
or to become frank revolutionaries claiming allegiance to a 
hypothetical future "classless culture" and to the "militant 
working class" also more or less hypothetical at the present 
stage of the social process. 

The American system is quantitatively successful as judged 
by the rapid extension of service some kind of service to 
about 1 5 ,000,000 American homes. Today the potential radio 
audience numbers over 60,000,000. In less than twelve years 
radio has become a cultural indispensable and has introduced 
important new factors into the social and political process. 

The bill for this service is paid first by the set owners. Mr. 
H. O. Davis of the Ventura Free Press estimates the annual 
amount of this bill, covering the cost of power, new tubes, 
repairs and replacements of radio sets, at $300,000,000. The 
same authority estimates that the maximum annual expendi- 
tures of all broadcasting stations and networks, including 
the operation of enormously expensive advertising sales de- 
partments, is not more than $80,000,000 and that $50,000,000 
covers the total expense for the actual production and trans- 
mission of all programs. 

The estimates are based on the technical and economic 
status quo of the "art and science of radio" as developed by 
business. Mr. Davis undertook a reconnaissance study of this 
status quo, which took the form of an analysis of a typical 
day's output transmitted to the listening public by 206 
American broadcasting stations. The following is quoted 
from his summarized findings: 

The average number of interruptions for sales talk during a 
total of 2365 hours of broadcasting, sustaining programs included, 
was 5.28 per hour per station. 

The average number of interruptions for sales talks during 119? 
program-hours sponsored by advertisers was 9.36 per hour. (In- 


terruptions for station announcements are not included in these 

On 1195 hours of programs sponsored by advertisers the sales 
talks consumed 174.7 hours, or 14.61 per cent of the total pro- 
gram time, almost three times the maximum permitted on Canadian 

The number of "spot ads," sales talks unaccompanied by enter- 
tainment supplied by the advertiser, totaled 5092 and consumed 
57 hours. Canada prohibits the broadcasting of "spot ads." 

Out of a total of 2365 broadcasting hours 789 hours, or 32.26 
per cent, were consumed by the playing of phonograph records. 
"Electrical transcriptions" specially made records consumed 30 
hours or 4.82 per cent of the total broadcasting time. 

A little more than 75 per cent of the entire number of hours 
was devoted to music of some kind. 

All musical programs consumed 1845 hours. 

On the day of the survey the 206 stations under observation 
broadcast 9% hours of symphony-orchestra music, devoting .6 per 
cent of the total music time to this type of entertainment. The 
same number of hours was filled by the output of so-called haywire 
or hill-billy orchestras. 

Dance orchestras, on the other hand, filled 388 hours or 21 per 
cent of the total music-time with jazz. 

Other instrumental and vocal music of the popular variety, 
crooners included, occupied 1219 hours, two-thirds of the total 

From the quantitative standpoint vaudeville is next in importance 
to music. It occupies almost half of the time not given over to 
music. Vaudeville includes reviews, jinks, dramatic sketches, jam- 
borees and similar mixtures of entertainment. 

The third largest portion of all broadcasting time is taken up by 
sales talks of advertisers, which consume 8.5 per cent of all time 
on the air, including both sponsored and sustaining time. In fact, 
commercial sales talks consume as much of the broadcasting time 
as all news broadcasts, all religious and political addresses and two- 
thirds of the lectures put together. . . . 

On a typical day the average station will devote three-quarters 


of its programs to some kind of musical presentation, but the high- 
est class of symphony-orchestra music will be heard during one-half 
of one per cent of the total music time. And when music is on 
the air, four programs out of ten will consist of the playing of 
phonograph records. More than five times every hour the pro- 
gram will be interrupted for the delivery of a sales talk lasting in 
excess of one minute. In addition there will also be four breaks per 
hour in the program continuity for station announcements, making 
a total of nine interruptions per hour. 

The reader, who is also probably a radio listener, will be 
able to dub in the sounds that go with this statistical picture: 
the bedlamite exhortations and ecstacies, the moronic coquet- 
ries and wise-cracks, the degenerate jazz rhythms, punctu- 
ated by the ironic blats and squeals of a demon from the outer 
void known as "Static." An evening spent twiddling the dials 
of a radio set is indeed a profoundly educational experience 
for any student of the culture. America is too big to see 
itself. But radio has enabled America to hear itself, and what 
we hear, if closely attended to, supplies important clues to the 
present state of the culture. 

When we turn to the educators who have struggled for 
the uplift of radio what we find is merely further proof of 
the cultural disintegration which radio makes audible. It may 
be said without serious exaggeration that the problem of the 
controlling and administering of radio broadcasting is ap- 
proximately coextensive with the problem of controlling the 
modern world in the economic and cultural interests of the 
people who inhabit it. Granted that the radio is socially and 
culturally one of the most revolutionary additions to the 
pool of human resources in all history how does one go about 
integrating it with a civilization which itself functions with 
increasing difficulty and precariousness? Radio is potentially, 
even to a degree actually, an instrument of world communi- 
cation. But the interests of the world population divide along 


racial, national and class lines. If these terrestrial conflicts 
could be reconciled, presumably we should have harmony on 
the air even conceivably the communication of a world cul- 
ture. As it is, the great mirror of the other not only reflects 
the conflicts of class and nation and race, but serves to ex- 
pand the scale and increase the intensity of these conflicts. 

An adequate study of these conflicts, as they are reflected in 
the current struggle for control of the microphone, would 
require a book in itself. We have space here only for a brief 
description of what happens when education and the arts en- 
counter business-as-usual as represented by the "American 
system of broadcasting." 

The records of the Federal Radio Commission show that in 
May, 1927, when the present radio law went into effect, there 
was a total of 94 educational institutions licensed to broad- 
cast. By March, 1931, the number had been reduced to 49. 
According to the National Committee on Education by Radio, 
23 educational broadcasting stations were forced to close their 
doors between January i and August i, 1930. At present, 
out of a total of 400 units available to the United States, 
educational stations occupy only 23.16 units, or one-sixteenth 
of the available frequencies. In short, educators and educa- 
tional institutions which desire to make independent use of 
the radio as an educational instrumentality are facing strangu- 
lation. They must either fight or acquiesce in the present 
trend, which, if continued, will give the commercial broad- 
casters complete control of the air the educators being in- 
vited to feed the Great Radio Audience such education as the 
commercial stations consider worth broadcasting, at hours 
which do not conflict with the vested interests of tooth- 
pastes and automobile tires or with the careers of such estab- 
lished radio personalities as Amos J n' Andy, Phil Cook and 
Lady Esther. 

The militant wing of the educators has chosen to fight 
and was organized as the National Committee for Education 


by Radio. Represented on the committee are the National 
Education Association, the National Council of State Super- 
intendents, the National Association of State Universities, 
the Association of College and University Broadcasting Sta- 
tions, the National University Extension Association, the 
National Catholic Educational Association, the American 
Council on Education, the Jesuit Education Association and 
the Association of Land Grant Colleges and Universities. Joy 
Elmer Morgan, editor of the Journal of the National Educa- 
tion, is chairman of this committee. Its work is financed by 
the Payne Fund. 

Let us turn now to the battalions of the opposition by 
which these educational militants are confronted. On June 
i, 1931, there were in the United States 609 licensed stations 
divided in a ratio of one to sixteen between the education 
and the commercial broadcasters. The strongest of the latter 
group are affiliated in two great chains with the National 
Broadcasting Company and the Columbia Broadcasting Com- 
pany. N. B. C. is a one-hundred per cent owned subsidiary 
of the Radio Corporation of America, which manufactures 
radio equipment and pools the patents of General Electric, 
Westinghouse and American Telephone and Telegraph. Ob- 
viously the educational militants are facing a closely affiliated 
group representing the dominant power and communications 
interests of America. N. B. C. and Columbia represent big 
business, and what does big business care for education and 
culture? But big business cares a great deal, insist the com- 
mercial broadcasters, citing their cultural sustaining programs 
and their repeated offers of free time on the air to educators. 
There is, in fact, a group of educators who have accepted the 
existing commercial set-up of broadcasting to the extent at 
least of working with it and through it. They too are or- 
ganized. The National Advisory Council on Radio in Educa- 
tion is financed jointly by John D. Rockefeller Jr. and the 
Carnegie Corporation. Its president is Dr. Robert A. Millikan 


and its vice president is Dr. Livingston Farrand, President of 
Cornell University. 

Two years ago the educational militants were engaged in 
propaganda for the Fess Bill, which would have assigned 15 
per cent of the broadcast band to educational broadcasting by 
educational stations. Latterly they have turned more and 
more to the demand for congressional investigation of radio 
with the hope that a congressional committee would recom- 
mend government ownership and operation of radio facilities 
as in England and more recently in Canada. The conservatives, 
as represented by the National Council on Radio in Education, 
abstain entirely from political propaganda and lobbying. The 
objectives of the council, as stated in its constitution, em- 
phasize fact-finding and fact-dissemination; it undertakes to 
"mobilize the best educational thought of the country to de- 
vise, develop and sponsor suitable programs, to be brought 
into fruitful contact with the most appropriate facilities in 
order that eventually the council may be recognized as the 
mouthpiece of American education in respect to educational 
broadcasting." Officially it still suspends judgment on the 
question of private versus public ownership and operation of 
broadcasting facilities, remarking that, "as yet no one is pre- 
pared or competent to say whether or not this [the announced 
educational program of the council] will eventually force the 
council to discuss the mechanisms necessary for educational 
broadcasting and whether their ownership should be in com- 
mercial hands, in the hands of educational institutions, or in 
the hands of non-profit co-operative federations, or perhaps in 
all." That statement was written four years ago and the coun- 
cil is still busy "finding the facts" by rigorously "objective" 
scientific procedures, meanwhile sponsoring politically innocu- 
ous educational broadcasts on free time contributed by the 
commercial chains. 

In May, 1933, the National Council on Radio in Education 
held its annual assembly. The Director of the Council, Mr. 

Levering Tyson, delivered a report discussing various activi- 
ties in broadcasting, research and publication and urged the 
establishment of a National Radio Institute. The writer par- 
ticipated in the discussion of this report and of the prepared 
speeches which followed it, which are published in Kadio in 
Education, 1933. I was frankly puzzled by the attitude of 
the educators as revealed at this conference. 

In this view business, including the business of selling tooth- 
pastes, laxatives, stocks and bonds, etc., by radio is assumed 
not to be educative. The advertisers' sales talks (doctrinal 
memoranda in the Veblenian terminology) and the jazz, 
vaudeville and other entertainment by which they are made 
more palatable all this is assumed not to be educative. But 
obviously this business expresses the central acquisitive drive 
of the culture. Obviously it influences the lives of the radio 
listeners infinitely more than the relatively microscopic 
amount of "education" which the council had been able to 
put on the air more in all probability than the total out- 
put of American class rooms and lecture platforms. Yet, by 
definition, it is not "education," which is conceived of as a 
meliorative something added to a secular process which may 
be profoundly diseducational in that it contradicts and op- 
poses at practically every point the attitudes and ideals of the 

In arguing for a more realistic and more vital conception of 
the educational function the writer pointed out that the end 
result of American commercial broadcasting, as we have it, is 
demonstrably diseducational; that radio advertisers are not 
interested in educating the great radio audience in any true 
sense. What really happens is that the advertisers are in- 
terested solely in promoting the sale of products and services. 
Hence they tend to exploit the cultural inadequacies of the 
radio audience and its moral, ethical and psychological help- 

At this meeting, Mr. Henry Adams Bellows, LL.D., vice 


president of the Columbia Broadcasting Company, made the 
usual formal offer of free time on the air to the assembled 
educators. At the moment it happened that a group of Corr 
munist -fellow-travelers," organized as the League of Pro- 
fessional Groups, was conducting a series of public lectures 
under the general title "Culture and Capitalism." 
ices of this group, which included some well-known teach- 
ers and writers, were offered without charge to Mr. Bellows 
but, as might have been expected, these radicals clamored i 
vain for "the freedom of the air." 

The issue of censorship was again raised at this meeting 
after Mr. Hector Charlesworth, chairman of the Canadian 
Broadcasting Commission, had declared that Communists and 
communist sympathizers were permitted on the air in Can- 
ada. The position of the American commercial broadcasters, 
as stated repeatedly by Mr. Bellows and others, is that the 
American system provides more effective freedom for minor- 
ity groups than the system of government ownership as oper- 
ated in England and in a more modified form in Canada. The 
contention, of course, finds little support in the experience 
of Communists and others who recurrently make application 
in vain to the educational directors of the major chains. 

It is difficult to write about the problem of radio censor- 
ship since all our eighteenth century concepts of "freedom" 
are quite evidently made obsolete by the technical nature of 
the instrumentality. Some form of censorship and some form 
of international control is necessary. The domestic problem is 
simplified under a political dictatorship. Both Mussolini and 
Hitler promptly seized complete control of radio upon as- 
suming power and used it to consolidate and extend their 
rule. At the moment Hitler's use of radio, which knows no 
political boundaries, is perhaps his strongest weapon in his 
struggle to bring Austria under the Nazi hegemony. It is 
safe to predict that in the next great war, radio will constitute 

a major offensive weapon, second only in effectiveness to the 

Meanwhile, in America, the confusion brought about by 
our various and sundry forms of censorship, both overt and 
concealed, is almost indescribable. Miss Lillian Hurwitz, in a 
study of radio censorship prepared for the American Civil 
Liberties Union, has no difficulty in showing that despite the 
prohibition of censorship embodied in our present radio law, 
The Federal Radio Commission "has so construed the stand- 
ard of public interest, convenience and necessity as to enable 
it to exercise an indirect censorship over station programs." 
The very assignment and withdrawal of radio licenses by the 
commission involves an indirect censorship. 

Meanwhile, as Miss Hurwitz abundantly proves, the sta- 
tions themselves are obliged to operate a systematic censor- 
ship, if only to protect themselves against libel suits. They go 
much further than that, of course. They not only impose their 
own conception of the "public interest, convenience and neces- 
sity" but their own standards of taste, morals and political 
orthodoxy. They protect their own source of revenue by 
forbidding radio lecturers to attack radio advertising. When 
Mr. F. J. Schlink, director of Consumers' Research, addressed 
the American Academy of Political and Social Science on the 
subject of the New Deal as it affects the consumer he was 
cut off the air by the Columbia Broadcasting Company. Only 
after the issue was publicly posed by the resulting newspaper 
publicity, was he permitted a week later to make the same 
speech over Columbia facilities. 

What will emerge from this welter of technical and com- 
mercial necessities and political make-believe is quite im- 
possible to predict. Proposals to unify all communications 
services under a single government control are now before 
Congress with the President's endorsement. A non-partisan 
investigation of the broadcasting system has been repeatedly 
urged and something of the sort is probably imminent. 


Meanwhile, however, it should be pointed out that a tight- 
ened control of the American Telegraph and Telephone Com- 
pany would perhaps put the government in a position to audit 
the wire charges which constitute a heavy proportion of the 
overhead of the broadcasting chains. It has been widely as- 
serted that these charges are excessive; that both the techni- 
cal and economic problems of broadcasting could be solved 
by a combination of "wire and wax." By "wax" is meant wax 
records which have been so perfected that an electrical tran- 
scription is now practically indistinguishable from an original 
studio broadcast. By "wire" is meant wire chain hookups, the 
present cost of which is at present almost prohibitive except 
for the two major chains. Then also there is an assortment 
of more or less known technical potentialities, such as wired 
radio, short wave and micro-wave broadcasting and tele- 
vision, although the latter, according to competent technicians, 
is at present to be classified as a stock-market development 
rather than an electronic development. Taken together these 
various potentialities make impossible any clear anticipation of 
what is likely to happen. With this exception however: the 
trend of both technical and economic developments point to 
the need of centralized control. This will be particularly true 
if the Roosevelt Administration is forced, by the failure of 
the NRA to increase buying power, to go left in the direction 
of a functional reorganization of distribution. As we shall 
see later, when we come to discuss the NRA program with 
respect to advertising, this cannot be accomplished without 
a huge deflation of the advertising business, affecting both the 
press and the commercial broadcasters. 

A significant factor in the situation is, of course, Mr. 
Roosevelt's immensely skillful and successful use of radio in 
building public support for his administration. On the whole, 
it would seem only a matter of time when Mr. Roosevelt, or 
whoever succeeds him, will be obliged to say to radio broad- 
casting, "You're mine! I need you to help me rule!" A faint 

intimation of this rather probable development appears in the 
speech of Federal Radio Commissioner Harold A. LaFount at 
the 1933 Assembly of the National Council on Radio in 
Education already referred to. Commissioner LaFount said: 

Educational programs could, and I believe in the near future 
will, be broadcast by the Government itself over a few powerful 
short-wave stations and rebroadcast by existing stations. This 
would not interfere with local educational programs, and would 
provide all broadcasters with the finest possible sustaining pro- 
grams. The whole nation would be taught by one teacher instead 
of hundreds, and would be thinking together on one subject of 
national importance. Personally I believe such a plan would be 
more effective than a standing army. 

The commissioner, who in view of his record, can scarcely 
be accused of being unfriendly to the commercial broad- 
casters, was probably innocent of dictatorial ideas. Yet his 
language is, to say the least, suggestive. 

A more detailed discussion of the problem of radio is contained 
in the writer's pamphlet "Order on the Air!" published by the 
John Day Company. 





WEEKS before real beer came back, the beer gardens sprang 
into bloom along Fourteenth Street. They are cheap. Fifteen 
cents buys a roast beef sandwich, a portion of beans, a por- 
tion of potatoes and a slop of thin gravy. You sit at an 
enamel table, look and listen. Imitation tile. Imitation Alps. 
Imitation Bavarian atmosphere. Imitation beer. Three people 
sit at the next table: an imitation pimp, an imitation stage 
mother and an imitation burlesque show manager. Maybe the 
burlesque show manager is real. He is gray-haired, red-faced, 
thickset and voluble. He declaims: 

"I'm a faker. God in his blue canopy above that's out of 
Shakespeare God knows I'm a faker. When the priest bap- 
tized me, he shook the holy water on my head (snap, snap) 
and said: Taker, faker, faker!' " 

I saw that. I heard that. If I had sat there long enough I 
am confident I could have seen and heard anything. If one 
wishes to discover America, all one has to do is to forget all 
the solemn and reasonable things that solemn and reasonable 
people have spoken and written, and then go listening and 
pondering into cheap restaurants, movie palaces, radio studios, 
pulp magazine offices, police stations, five- and ten-cent 
stores, advertising agencies. Out of this atomic, pulverized 
life, the anarchic voices rise. They are shameless, these voices, 
and truthful, and wise with a kind of bleak factual wisdom. 
Each atom speaks for itself, to comfort itself, to assert itself 


against the overwhelming nothingness of all the other atoms: 
each atom sending out an infinitesimal ray of force, search- 
ing for some infinite reason, and protesting obstinately against 
some infinite betrayal. 

Fake. Baloney. Bunk. Apple sauce. Bull. There are over a 
hundred slang synonyms for the idea which these words ex- 
press, most of them coined within the last two decades. No 
other idea has called forth such lavish folk invention, and 
this can mean only one thing. It is the pseudoculture's bleak 
judgment upon itself. It is possible for an inhuman society to 
pulverize humanity, but the human essence is indestructible. 
It is meek, or it is bitter; it remains human, truthful and es- 
sentially moral, even religious. 

What is religion, if it is not the framework of instinctively 
felt values of truth and beauty and honor by which the race 
lives if it is to live? Reverse these thin worn coins of the 
folk argot bunk, baloney, etc. and you find the true cur- 
rency of the human exchange. Honoring truth, the burlesque 
comedian pauses in his exit, shakes his rear and says: "Horse- 

But what we are concerned with here is not the deep 
human core of the religious spirit, but the make-believe 
against which these atomic voices are crying out: the fake re- 
ligion, the moral, ethical and spiritual make-believe of the 
acquisitive society, of the ad-man's pseudoculture. If the 
inquiry were to be in any degree systematic and exhaustive, 
it would lead us far back in time, back to the medieval syn- 
thesis of church and state and its breakup by those Knights 
Templar of the rising trading class, John Calvin and Martin 

There are plenty of able and informed advertising men, 
and some of them know this. Yesterday I was in the research 
department of a large agency gathering certain statistical 
data. A former associate paused, greeted me and we fell into 
conversation. Knowing me, he guessed what I was doing in 


fact I had never at any time tried to conceal anything and, 
helpfully, he offered his own explanations. He blamed Martin 
Luther. For the long sequence of cultural disintegration, cli- 
maxed in our time by the paradox of mass production and 
mass starvation and by the development of the advertising 
agency as a mass producer of f akery, human stultification and 
confusion, he blamed Martin Luther. 

This man started life as a traveling salesman. He never 
went to college, so that his mind remained fresh and avid, if 
cynical. And he had known great charlatans in his time no- 
tably Elbert Hubbard. He understood them very well, and, 
being of a speculative turn, he had checked up on their ori- 
gins. He blamed Martin Luther. He was greatly interested 
when I told him that the famous German scholar, Max 
Weber, author of The Protestant Ethic, also blamed Martin 
Luther a little, but John Calvin a great deal more. 

My friend had only a few minutes for gossip, however. He 
had to get back to his desk and read proof on a new tooth- 
paste campaign in which, by a trick of pragmatic self- 
hypnosis, he had come to believe fervently. When he had 
finished he would placidly stroll to the station, buy a paper, 
and solve a cross-word puzzle en route to White Plains and 
his comfortable and charming suburban family. 

While somewhat exceptional, this man is far from being a 
unique figure in the business. To those atomic voices heard 
above the clatter of dishes in the Fourteenth Street beer gar- 
dens, we must add the voices of the speakeasy philosophers 
of the Grand Central district advertising men, many of 
them, college men and more or less self-conscious fakers. God 
in his blue canopy above knows they're fakers, but it is per- 
haps somewhat to their credit that they know it too. 

In discussing religion and the ad-man we are not concerned 


with the sales publicity of the churches. There are plenty of 
texts on the subject. What concerns us is the extent to which 
the culture of our acquisitive society, as represented and 
publicized by the ad-man, has become a rival of the Christian 
culture, represented by the Protestant and Catholic Churches 
of the United States. 

Since it is our purpose to compare these two cultures, it 
may be useful to note what social scientists think culture and 
religion are. Culture may be defined as the total social en- 
vironment into which the individual is born; religion is a 
behavior pattern which seeks to dominate the culture. As 
sociological phenomena, religion, nationalism and radicalism, 
although dissimilar in many respects, are categorically the 
same. The sociologist would note the similarities between re- 
ligions, nationalism and radicalism, by calling them all be- 
havior patterns. The layman would call them religions. The 
name is not important. What is important is the fact that 
they have common characteristics. 

Each of these religions has an inclusive pattern for human 
life and society. Each of them would prefer to be dominant 
and to exclude other behavior patterns from the scene. Wit- 
ness Russia and the Christian Churches, or Nazi Germany 
and the Socialist and Communist Parties. As a practical mat- 
ter behavior patterns do succeed in living side by side, but 
though the competition may not be overt, it is present. 
Every behavior pattern has to be sold, more or less, continu- 
ously, to the public. This is true, as the anthropologist, Ma- 
linowski, has pointed out, even among primitive peoples. He 
says: "The reign of custom in a savage society is a complex 
and variegated matter just as it is in a more civilized society. 
Some customs are very lightly broken; others are regarded as 
mandatory." The more effective techniques used in selling the 
public a behavior pattern may be considered techniques of 
rule. Religious rituals belong in this category; so do the 
publicity engines of Mussolini, and of Hitler. No proper 


perspective can be gained in relation to such behavior pat- 
terns as religion, nationalism and radicalism, unless one real- 
izes that they are highly important in relation to group sur- 
vival. As Bagehot has said: "Any polity is more efficient than 
none." But the more shrewd and complete the polity, the more 
efficient an instrument it is in the struggle for survival. 

There are certain interesting parallelisms between the tech- 
niques of persuasion and admonition used in religious rituals 
and those used in contemporary advertising. Jane Harrison, 
the distinguished student of Greek religions, notes that ritual 
in its beginnings has two elements: the dromenon, something 
which is done, and the legomenon, something which is said. In 
the beginning, the words of the ritual, according, to Miss 
Harrison, may have consisted of "no more than the excited 
repetition of one syllable." The action of the ritual is some- 
thing that is "re-done, commemorative, or predone, anticipa- 
tory, and both elements seem to go to its religiousness." The 
points at which the techniques of religious ritual and adver- 
tising correspond are the following: In both instances, there 
is repetition. In both instances the symbols used in the ritual, 
or the ad, have the same meaning to the audience. A symbol, 
which always has the same meaning, is called by Durkheim, 
"a collective representation." A number of social scientists 
have pointed out that the Utopias of the radicals become com- 
prehensible if one realizes that they serve as collective repre- 
sentations. In advertising, the name of the product, the 
slogan, the packaging and the trade-mark, are obviously used 
as collective representations. 

The net result of religious ritual is to leave the participants 
in a religious ceremony more restless than soothed, simmering 
gently, or boiling violently as the case may be, in an im- 
pressionable, emotional state, which cannot find complete re- 
lease in immediate action. (Note the ritualistic function of the 
movies already described as a want-building adjunct of the 
advertising business.) While the audience is in this impression- 


able state, the minister or priest makes strong persuasive or 
admonitory suggestions in regard to the action which the 
individual should take in the future. In advertising, the ad- 
monitory or persuasive voices of the priesthood are also 

The close analogy between the sales publicity methods of 
the Christian Church and those of the modern Church of 
Advertising was noted in 1923 by Thorstein Veblen, who 
missed little, if any, of the comedy of the American scene. 
Veblen'slong foot-note (p. 319, Absentee Ownership) should 
be read in its entirety in this connection. It is particularly 
interesting as showing the rapid movement of forces during 
the intervening decade. 

The Propagation of the Faith is quite the largest, oldest, most 
magnificent, most unabashed, and most lucrative enterprise in 
sales-publicity in all Christendom. Much is to be learned from it 
as regards media and suitable methods of approach, as well as due 
perseverance, tact, and effrontery. By contrast, the many secular 
adventures in salesmanship are no better than upstarts, raw recruits, 
late and slender capitalizations out of the ample fund of human 
credulity. It is only quite recently, and even yet only with a dawn- 
ing realization of what may be achieved by consummate effrontery 
in the long run, that these others are beginning to take on any- 
thing like the same air of stately benevolence and menacing solem- 
nity. No pronouncement on rubber-heels, soap-powders, lip-sticks, 
or yeast-cakes, not even Sapphira Buncombe's Vegetative Compound, 
are yet able to ignore material facts with the same magisterial de- 
tachment, and none has yet commanded the same unreasoning assent 
or acclamation. None other has achieved that pitch of unabated 
assurance which has enabled the publicity-agents of the Faith to 
debar human reason from scrutinizing their pronouncements. These 
others are doing well enough, do doubt; perhaps as well as might 
reasonably be expected under the circumstances, but they are a 
feeble thing in comparison. "Saul has slain his thousands," perhaps, 
"but David has slain his tens of thousands." 


Within a year after this footnote was written, Mr. Bruce 
Barton published The Man Nobody Knows, in which the life 
and works of the Saviour are assimilated into the body of 
the ad-man's doctrine, and in which the very physical linea- 
ments of the traditional Christ begin to take on a family 
resemblance to those of the modern ad-man, so excellently 
typified by Mr. Barton himself. The discussion of this brilliant 
job of rationalization must be reserved for a later chapter. 
At this point it is sufficient to observe that today Veblen's 
ironic patronage of the emerging priesthood of advertising 
sounds astonishingly inept and dated. For it may well be 
contended that today the Propagation of the Faith is rela- 
tively nowhere, while the religion of the ad-man is everywhere 
dominant both as to prestige and in the matter of administra- 
tive control. Granted that both religions are decadent, since 
the underlying exploitative system which both support is it- 
self disintegrating by reason of its internal contradictions; 
none the less, the ad-man's religion is today the prevailing 
American religion, and the true heretic must therefore con- 
centrate upon this modern aspect of priestcraft. The ancient 
Propagation of the Faith continues, of course, sometimes in 
more or less collusive alliance with the Church of Advertising, 
sometimes in jealous and recalcitrant opposition. We can give 
little space to the quarrels and intrigues of these competing 
courtiers at the High Court of Business. Clearly the present 
favorite is advertising, and we turn now to a brief resume 
of the historic process by which the priesthood of ballyhoo 
attained this high estate. 

Starting, as any discussion of the economic and ideological 
evolution of modern industrial capitalism must start, with 
the breakup of the medieval church-state synthesis, we note 
that the Christian feudalism of the Middle Ages did not live 


by buying and selling. As John Strachey puts it in The Com- 
ing Struggle for Power, "what Western man accomplished by 
some four hundred years of struggle, between the fifteenth 
and the nineteenth centuries, was the establishment of the 
free market." The development of monopoly capitalism in 
the modern period qualified this ' "freedom" of course; it 
also intensified the fundamental contradictions of capitalism, 
and sharpened the ethical dilemma which is concisely stated 
by the conservative philosopher, James Hayden Tufts, in his 
American Social Morality: 

The impersonal corporation formed for profit represents in clear- 
est degree this separation of the modern conduct of commerce and 
industry from all control by religious authority and by the moral 
standards and restraints grounded in the older professedly personal 
relations of man to man in kinship, neighborhood or civic com- 
munity. . . . To turn over all standards to the market was to lay 
a foundation for future conflicts unless the market should provide 
some substitute for the older standards when man dealt with his 
fellow and faced the consequences of his dealing. 

The market did provide such a substitute, of course a fake 
substitute. It provided the religion of advertising and devel- 
oped the forms and controls of the ad -man's pseudoculture. 

It is this utilitarian faker y with which we are here con- 
cerned, rather than with the economic and political conquests 
of the trading class. We are concerned with the ideological and 
religious rationalizations by which these conquests were both 
implemented and justified. My former advertising colleague 
who blamed this long history of serio-comic rationalization 
on Martin Luther would seem to be somewhat in error, just 
as Max Weber probably overemphasizes the role of the Prot- 
estant Ethic, the Calvinistic doctrine of "justification by 

In Weber's view the Calvinistic doctrine of worldly suc- 


cess in a "calling" as a means of winning divine favor con- 
stituted a necessary theological counterpart of capitalism; 
without such reinforcement of the normal lust for gain, he 
argues, the extraordinary conquests of capitalism in England 
and in America would have been impossible. Calvinism recon- 
ciled piety and money-making; in fact the pursuit of riches, 
which in the medieval church ethic had been feared as the 
enemy of religion, was now welcomed as its ally. It is impor- 
tant to note, as does Tawney in his introduction to Weber's 
great essay, that the habits and institutions in which this phi- 
losophy found expression survived long after the creed which 
was their parent had practically expired. So that, quoting 
Tawney, "if capitalism begins as the practical idealism of the 
aspiring bourgeoisie, it ends ... as an orgy of materialism." 
An orgy is an irrational affair. To the writer, the most 
interesting and suggestive aspect of Weber's interpretation, as 
applied to the contemporary phenomena of the ad-man's 
pseudoculture, is this divorcing of the acquisitive drive from 
any control by hedonistic rationality. The pursuit of wealth, 
for the Calvinistic entrepreneur, was not merely an advan- 
tage, but a duty. And this sense of duty persisted long after 
the Calvinistic sanctions had ceased to be operative. Money- 
making for money-making's-sake, like art-for-art's-sake, sup- 
plied its own sanctions. Both are self-contained disciplines, 
fields for the display of an irrational and sterile virtuosity. 
Weber, in the concluding pages of his essay, sets forth this 
consummation with moving eloquence: 

In the field of its highest development, in the United States, the 
pursuit of wealth, stripped of its religious and ethical meaning, 
tends to become associated with purely mundane passions, which 
often give the character of sport. (The advertising "game." J. R.) 

No one knows who will live in this cage in the future, or whether 
at the end of this tremendous development entirely new prophets 
will arise, or there will be a great rebirth of old ideas and ideals, 


or, if neither, mechanized petrifaction, embellished with a sort of 
convulsive self-importance. For of the last stage of this cultural 
development, it might well be truly said: "Specialists without spirit, 
sensualists without heart; this nullity imagines that it has at- 
tained a level of civilization never before achieved." 

But note that this was written in 1905. What Weber saw 
with horror was not "the last stage," but the next-to-the-last 
stage perhaps not even that. The cage was kept spinning, not 
merely by its accumulated momentum, but by the organized 
application, on a tremendous scale, of the great force of 
emulation. Ten years before Max Weber wrote the paragraph 
quoted, Thorstein Veblen had written The Theory of the 
Leisure Class, which gave currency to his fertile concepts of 
"vicarious expenditure," "conspicuous waste," etc. These con- 
cepts, all revolving about the central motivation of emula- 
tion, are the stock-in-trade of the modern advertising copy 

New prophets did arise in America Elbert Hubbard for 
one, Bruce Barton for another. America entered upon the 
"surplus economy" phase of industrial capitalism, and the 
appropriate religion for this period, which was interrupted, 
but also accelerated by the war, was the religion of advertis- 
ing, which did not reach full maturity until after the war. The 
motion picture industry came along as an important adjunct 
of the emulative promotion machinery, used as such both at 
home, and as an "ideological export," to further the conquests 
of American imperialism in "backward" countries. Peering 
out of the vistas ahead were radio and television. 

Seeing all this, Theodore Dreiser seized upon the great theme 
of emulation keeping up with the Joneses and wrote The 
American Tragedy. And Carl Sandburg wrote, almost as a 
kind of sad ironic parody of Weber: "This is the greatest city 
of the greatest country that ever, ever was." And the cage 
spun faster than ever. And Robert Frost wrote West Running 


Brook, in which he symbolizes western culture as a stream dis- 
appearing in the barren soil of the American acquisitive cul- 
ture. And Robinson Jeffers wrote: 

Man, introverted man, having crossed 

In passage and but a little with the nature of things this latter 


Has begot giants; but being taken up 

Like a maniac with self love and inward conflicts cannot manage his 


Being used to deal with edgeless dreams, 

Now he's bred knives on nature turns them also inward; they have 

thirty points, though. 
His mind forebodes his own destruction; 

Actacon who saw the goddess naked among the leaves and his hounds 

tore him. 

A little knowledge, a pebble from the shingle, 
A drop from the oceans; who would have dreamed this infinitely 

little too much? 

When he wrote this, as a kind of an advance obituary of 
industrial capitalism, Jeifers was an unknown recluse on the 
coast of California, and the book in which it appeared was 
printed at his own expense. But that same year the presses 
rolled out the four millionth copy of Elbert Hubbard's Mes- 
sage to Garcia, in which the big business cracks the whip over 
the modern office wage slave. 

The cage spun faster still. On an August midnight in 
Union Square, New York, a banner was flung out of the 
Freiheit office reading "Vanzetti Murdered!" and, in the words 
of the New York World's reporter: 

The crowd responded with a giant sob. Women fainted in fifteen 
or twenty places. Others too, overcome, dropped to the curbs and 
buried their heads in their hands. Men leaned on one another's 
shoulders and wept. There was a sudden movement in the street 


to the east of the Square. Men began running around aimlessly, 
tearing at their clothes, and dropping their straw hats, and women 
ripped their dresses in anguish. 

Thus the State of Massachusetts was killing the God in 
man. But Bruce Barton still lived, and, having written The 
Man Nobody Knows, went on to write The Book Nobody 
Knows, and On the Up and Up. 





THE emergence of organized and incorporated salesmanship 
as the characteristic phenomenon of the American society, the 
transmigration of the soul of the Fourth Estate into the 
material body of the advertising business these developments 
can be viewed as logical sequences in the evolution of indus- 
trial capitalism; they can also be studied as the end products 
of a social philosophy. In this chapter we shall attempt to 
outline the ideological evolution as it appears in the life and 
works of significant American personalities. Benjamin Frank- 
lin, Jay Cooke, P. T. Barnum, Henry Ward Beecher, Elbert 
Hubbard, Bruce Barton: what these men thought and did 
and said was doubtless determined largely by the economic 
environment in which they rose to power and influence. But 
their attitudes, acts and utterances served to rationalize and 
thereby to promote the material evolution, in the study of 
which the economist specializes. What we look for, in the 
evidence of these lives, is the religion of salesmanship which 
became more and more, after the turn of the century, the 
religion of advertising. What we find is a kind of sequence 
of crowd heroes, each modeling himself more or less on the 
ones preceding. They are middle-class heroes, all of them, 
and the crown and glory of the towering structure of ration- 
alization which they erected is the identification of the Christ 
mission with the mission of the middle-class salesman and 
advertising man, which was accomplished by Mr. Barton in 


The Man Nobody Knows. 

Even today the masthead of the Saturday Evening Post 
bears the proud statement "Founded by Benjamin Franklin." 
The statement is true in spirit if not in fact. The Saturday 
Evening Post is the most influential advertising medium in 
America in the world for that matter. And the social and 
political philosophy of its publisher derives clearly from the 
sly wisdom of that ineffable parvenu, that Yankee all-right- 
nick of genius who signed himself "Poor Richard." Franklin 
serves as a point of departure because he was a business-minded 
pragmatist. He was not a Babbitt and it is impossible to con- 
ceive of Franklin, a man of genius, playing the role of a Hub- 
bard or a Barton a century later. But on the other hand it 
seems fair to credit Franklin with laying the ground-work 
of the American acquisitive ethic. 


"Remember, that time is money . . . Remember, that 
credit is money. If a man lets money be on my hands after 
it is due, he gives me the interest, or so much as I can make 
of it during that time. Remember, that money is of the 
prolific, generating nature. Money can beget money, and its 
offspring can beget more, and so on. Remember this saying, 
r the good paymaster is lord of another man's purse.' He 
that is known to pay punctually and exactly to the time he 
promises may at any time and on any occasion raise all the 
money his friends can spare . . . The most trifling actions 
that affect a man's credit are to be regarded. The sound of 
your hammer at five in the morning or eight at night, heard 
by a creditor, makes him easy six months longer; but if he 
sees you at a billiard table or hears your voice at a tavern, 
when you should be at work, he sends for his money the 
next day." 

Remember, remember. Remember, in the matter of sex, 


its utilitarian aspect; sexualize to promote health or for the 
sober procreation of children; "do not marry for money, but 
marry where money is." If as a young man you cannot afford 
to marry, choose your mistress wisely, preferably an older 
woman, since a pretty face adds nothing of utility or sub- 
stantial enjoyment to the transaction and moreover the older 
women are so grateful." 

Franklin was careful to be good because, honesty being the 
best policy, it paid him to be good. And when he was not 
careful to be good, he was careful to be careful. 

"I grew convinced that truth, sincerity and integrity in 
dealings between man and man were of the utmost impor- 
tance to the felicity of life . . . Revelation had indeed no 
weight with me as such; but I entertained an opinion that, 
though certain actions might not be bad because they were 
forbidden by it, or good because it commanded them, yet 
probably those actions might be forbidden because they were 
bad for us, or commanded because they were beneficial to 
us in their own nature, all the circumstances of things con- 

The utilitarian point of view could scarcely be made more 
explicit. But Franklin achieved a further logical extension of 
the utilitarian philosophy, to which Weber calls attention in 
"The Protestant Ethic." 

"Now, all Franklin's moral attitudes are colored with utili- 
tarianisms. Honesty is useful, because it assures credit; so are 
punctuality, industry, frugality, and that is the reason they 
are virtues. A logical deduction from this would be that 
where, for instance, the appearance of honesty serves the same 
purpose, that would suffice, and an unnecessary surplus of this 
virtue would evidently appear to Franklin's eyes as unpro- 
ductive waste. And as a matter of fact, the story in his auto- 
biography of his conversion to those virtues, or the discus- 
sion of the value of a strict maintenance of the appearance of 

modesty, the assiduous belittlement of one's own desserts in 
order to gain general recognition later, confirms this impres- 
sion. According to Franklin, those virtues, like all others, are 
only in so far virtues as they are actually useful to the indi- 
vidual, and the surrogate of mere appearances is always suf- 
ficient when it accomplishes the end in view. It is a conclusion 
which is inevitable for strict utilitarianism." 

Compare this accurate characterization of Poor Richard's 
credo with the attitude of the manufacturers of Creomulsion, 
a proprietary remedy, expressed in a form letter designed to 
coerce newspaper publishers into attacking the Tugwell Pure 
Food and Drugs Bill: 

Gentlemen: You are about to lose a substantial amount of adver- 
tising revenue from food, drug, and cosmetic manufacturers. Your 
pocketbook is about to be filched and you will see how if you will 
personally study ... the enclosed copy of the Tugwell Bill. This 
bill was introduced by two doctors. . . . You publish your paper for 
profit and as a service to your community. In most virile business 
organizations the altruistic policies in the final analysis are means to 
the primary end which is profit. (My italics J. R.) ... An isolated 
editorial or two will not suffice. . . . You need to take an aggressive 
stand against this measure. You need to bring all personal pressure 
you can upon your senators and representatives. You need to en- 
lighten and thereby arouse your public against this bill which is 
calculated to greatly restrict personal rights. If this bill should 
become law we will be forced to cancel immediately every line 
of Creomulsion advertising. . . . 

Surely the italicized sentence expresses the essence of the 
Poor Richard Philosophy and shows that the wisdom of 
Benjamin Franklin still lives in the hearts and minds of his 
countrymen, especially those who, like the manufacturers of 
Creomulsion, are engaged in manipulating the techniques of 
rule by advertising. 



Vernon L. Parrington, in the third volume of his Main 
Currents of American Thought, remarks that "in certain re- 
spects Jay Cooke may be reckoned the first modern Ameri- 
can." He financed the Civil War, and in the course of his 
operations developed and used on the grand scale most of the 
techniques of the modern advertiser and mass propagandist. 
With the Liberty Loan drives in mind, compare Parrington's 
summary of Cooke's pioneering achievements. 

Under his bland deacon-like exterior was the mind of a realist. 
... If he were to lure dollars from old stockings in remote chim- 
ney corners he must "sell" patriotism to his fellow Americans; and 
to do that successfully he must manufacture a militant public opin- 
ion. The soldier at the front, he announced in a flood of adver- 
tisements, must be supported at the rear. . . . To induce slacker 
dollars to become fighting dollars he placed his agents in every 
neighborhood, in newspaper offices, in banks, in pulpits patriotic 
forerunners of the "one-minute men" of later drives. . . . He sub- 
sidized the press with a lavish hand, not only the metropolitan 
dailies but the obscurist country weeklies. He employed an army of 
hack-writers to prepare syndicated matter and he scattered paying 
copy broadcast. . . . He bought the pressings of whole vineyards 
and casks of pure wine flowed in an endless stream to strategic 
publicity points. Rival brokers hinted that he was debauching the 
press, but the army of greenbacks marching to the front was his 
reply. It all cost a pretty penny, but the government was liberal 
with commissions and when all expenses were deducted perhaps 
$2,000,000 of profits remained in the vaults of the firm to be added 
to the many other millions which the prestige of the government 
agency with its free advertising brought in its train. 

Having successfully sold a war, Jay Cooke turned to sell- 
ing railroad stock specifically, the Northern Pacific. He 
kept much of his war publicity machine intact and used it 

both for this purpose and to shape public opinion in regard to 
taxation funding, and the currency naturally in his own 
interests. But the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War smashed 
Cooke's European bond-selling campaign and the fall of the 
house of Cooke precipitated the panic of '73. 

Jay Cooke carried into the realm of national finance and 
politics the morals, ethics and philosophy of a frontier trader 
and real estate speculator. Profoundly ignorant of social or 
economic principles he wrote or had written for him con- 
tributions to economic theory which were little more than 
clumsy and transparent rationalizations of a money lender's 
greed. But he was successful in amassing great wealth; hence 
he was, during his heyday, a popular hero whose opinions on 
any subject were listened to with great respect by his fellow 
Americans. Moreover, he was, as Parrington noted: "Scrupu- 
lous in all religious duties, a kind husband, a generous friend, 
benevolent in all worthy charities, simple and democratic in 
his tastes, ardently patriotic." As a man, he seems to have 
had neither blood nor brains Franklin had both but in his 
life and work he applied the middle-class virtues of Poor 
Richard to the acquisitive opportunities of the Gilded Age. So 
that to a people given over to the worship of money-progress 
and money-opportunity he was a kind of Moses, envied and 
revered in life by all classes and worshipped by his biographer. 

In brief, he was a mean and sorry little parvenu; and one 
of the founding fathers of the religion of salesmanship and 
advertising. His career marks a step in the evolution of the 
American crowd hero, and in the evolution of the American 


Salesmanship and showmanship are variants of the same 
technique and both find their sanctions in Franklin's utili- 
tarian ethic. America's greatest showman belongs in the his- 


torical sequence of American crowd heroes for a number of 
reasons. In him the doctrine of justification by works re- 
ceives its extreme pragmatic application in "the people like to 
be fooled" and "there is a sucker born every minute." That 
this greasy faker, this vulgar horse-trading yokel could have 
successfully worn the cloak of piety all his life; that his 
autobiography, the prototype of the American success story, 
was for years an unrivaled best seller, standing alongside of 
Franklin's Autobiography and Pilgrim's Progress in many 
thousands of American homes; that he was, for multitudes 
of his fellow citizens a model American all this is difficult 
to believe at this distance. Yet his biographer, M. R. Werner, 
supplies impressive evidence that it was so. 

When you give one of your daughters away in matrimony, advise 
her to imitate Charity Barnum; when your son leaves home to try 
his luck on the ocean of life, give him Barnum for a guide; when 
you yourself are in trouble and misery and near desperation, take 
from Barnum's life and teachings consolation and courage. 

Henry Hilgert, a Baltimore preacher, stood up in his pulpit 
and said this to his congregation and there is every reason to 
believe that he expressed with substantial accuracy the con- 
temporary popular evaluation of the great showman. The man 
he was talking about started his career in a country store 
in Bethel, Connecticut, watering the rum, sanding the sugar 
and dusting the pepper that he sold to his fellow townsmen, 
cheating and being cheated, playing cruel practical jokes, all 
strictly in accordance with the savage mores of that idyllic 
New England community, where the public whipping post 
menaced the ungodly arid suicides were buried at the cross- 
roads. From this he advanced to running a public lottery and 
with the profits went to New York, where the advertising of 
Dr. Brandeth's Pills was helping James Gordon Bennett to 
lay the foundations of the modern American newspaper. 

At thirty-one Barnum was writing advertisements for the 
Bowery Amphitheater at four dollars a week. He was a 
"natural" at the business and used his skill to get control 
of the American Museum where he began to advertise in 
earnest. When the posters of the negro violinist didn't pull, 
he changed them to show the violinist playing upside down. 
Then they pulled, and the customers didn't mind, because 
Barnum gave them a flea circus and a pair of albinos as added 
attractions. He advertised his theatrical performances as re- 
ligious lectures, and the best and most devout people flocked 
to them. His advertisements of Joyce Heth, "the nurse of 
George Washington," the Japanese mermaid, the white whales, 
Jenny Lind and Jumbo drained the dictionary of adjectives. 
Modern movie advertising has added nothing new or better 
to the technique. He stood with Tom Thumb before kings. 
He lectured to thousands on power of will and success through 
godliness. He invested his money in factories and in real estate 
developments designed to house religious working men who 
didn't drink, smoke or chew. He went bankrupt, but with 
the $150,000 his creditors couldn't get he "came back" 
gloriously and made another fortune. 

To the museum which Barnum gave to Tufts College there 
still come on Sunday afternoons good people from the sur- 
rounding suburbs who stand in awe before the stuffed carcass 
of Jumbo. And the college glee club still sings: 

Who was P. T. Barnum? 
The first in tents 
And consequently hence 
The first in the realm of dollars and cents. 
The first to know 
That a real fine show 
Must have a gen-u-ine Jumbo. 
The first to come 
With the needful sum 

To found our college mus-e-um! 
Pee Tee Barnum!! 


Barnum had nerve, a kind of bucolic Yankee hardihood 
which enabled him to trade in godliness with the same poker- 
faced effrontery that characterized his circus barking. That, 
with a certain crude but vigorous histrionism, would appear 
to be his contribution to the evolution of the American crowd- 
hero type. 

Henry Ward Beecher, in contrast, was a deplorable 'fraid- 
cat all his days. But he was a much more complex and inter- 
esting figure than the great showman, and embodied more 
richly the conflicting strains of the cultural heritage. He, too, 
was a middle-class crowd hero. Yet curiously, his unrivaled 
eminence as a preacher and editor, in a period when the influ- 
ence of the church and the church press was enormous, never 
quite gave him the mass influence which Barnum clearly had. 
One reason for this, of course, was the scandal which clouded 
his later years. But there is perhaps another and even more 
important reason. Beecher, though a showman both by nature 
and by long training, had a private impurity which is incom- 
patible with pure showmanship, pure salesmanship, pure 
money-making. Beecher took himself seriously. He was a 
faker, a liar and a cheat, as was Barnum, and at bottom he 
was just about as vulgar as Barnum. But Beecher had a per- 
sonal mission to repudiate the harsh Calvinism of his father, 
the loveless despotism of that barren Litchfield parsonage, and 
proclaim the gospel of love. So Henry Ward Beecher strug- 
gled; a scared child, he begged the love of women which he 
never earned; women whom he later repudiated. Seemingly 
they loved him; at least they never gave him the hatred 
which his cowardly betrayals richly deserved. Why? Perhaps 
because they pitied him and saw that he was struggling genu- 


inely after his fashion; struggling to be himself, to defy the 
Calvinist God, to assert the Tightness of the tremendous emo- 
tionality which was his greatest endowment. Victoria Wood- 
hull, that extraordinary woman, probably came close to 
stating the truth about Beecher when she wrote: 

The immense physical potency of Mr. Beecher, and the indomi- 
table urgency of his great nature for the intimacy and embraces of 
the noble and cultured women about him, instead of being a bad 
thing as the world thinks, or thinks it thinks, or professes to think it 
thinks, is one of the noblest and grandest endowments of this truly 
great and representative man. Plymouth Church has lived and fed, 
and the healthy vigor of public opinion for the last quarter of a 
century has been augmented and strengthened from the physical 
amativeness of Rev. Henry Ward Beecher. 

How Beecher writhed when he read this! And with what 
maledictions the brethren of Plymouth Church rejected this 
intolerable tribute to their adored pastor! For it was not pre- 
cisely Henry Ward Beecher's business to revolutionize the 
sexual mores of his time. Not his the stuff of which martyrs 
are made. Earlier in his career, Beecher had rejected this role. 
When his brother, his father, most of his more courageous 
parishioners had embraced the cause of abolition Beecher had 
played safe on the slavery question. Instead he had chosen as 
his pulpiteering stock in trade the denunciation of the liquor 
traffic. And the jibe of a distiller whom he had attacked was 
well earned: 

You cannot justify slavery by talking about the making of 
whiskey. . . . Why is thy tongue still and thy pen idle when the 
sentiments of thy brother and thy church on slavery are promul- 
gated? Thou idle boaster where is thy vaunted boldness? . . . You 
are greatly to be pitied, even by a distiller. 

Just what was Henry Ward Beecher's business, his "useful- 


ness" to the preservation of which he sacrificed friend after 
friend along with his own honor and decency? It was the 
preaching business. It was also indirectly the advertising de- 
partment of the real estate business. In Henry Ward Beecber: 
An American Portrait, Paxton Hibben writes: 

The investment character of his church was a matter that every 
metropolitan minister of that day was expected to bear in mind. 
Pews were auctioned off to the highest bidder and church scrip 
bore seven per cent interest. A popular preacher was, also, a better 
real estate advertisement than whole pages of publicity. Indeed, 
such a preacher as Henry Ward Beecher proved, readily secured 
pages of publicity for the neighborhood in which he officiated. For 
it was the day when church going was the only amusement per- 
mitted the godly, and divine service received the attention from the 
press later accorded theaters and social activities. 

Beecher had trained hard for this business. In a later lecture 
at Yale, which took the form of a success story, he said: 

I got this idea: that the Apostles were accustomed to feel for a 
ground on which the people and they stood together; a common 
ground where they could meet. Then they stored up a large number 
of the particulars of knowledge, which belonged to everybody; 
when they get that knowledge that everybody would admit, placed 
in proper form before their minds, then they brought it to bear 
upon them with all their excited heart and feeling. 

It is not difficult to recognize this as essentially the formula 
of Mr. Barton's syndicated lay preachments. In fact, Beecher's 
pulpiteering and Barton's syndicated essays are essentially 
advertisements designed to "sell" the acquisitive society to 
itself. Beecher's method was in all important respects the 
method by which an advertising agency after appropriate 
"research" arrives at the most effective "copy slant" with 
which to sell a new toothpaste or a new gargle. The basic 


conviction which underlies all these enterprises in showman- 
ship, salesmanship and advertising is expressed in one of Mr. 
Barton's favorite mottoes: "There is somebody wiser than 
anybody. That somebody is everybody." 

However, one must admit that although Beecher unques- 
tionably had the authentic Big Idea, he was too neurotic and 
too blundering ever quite to come through as a successful 
advertising man. He was forever picking the wrong theme 
song at the wrong time. Take his attitude toward Lincoln: 

It will be difficult for a man to be born lower than he was. He 
is an unshapely man. He is a man that bears evidence of not having 
been educated in schools or in circles of refinement. 

Thousands of middle class American parvenues took that 
view of Lincoln but it took a pompous blatherskite like 
Beecher to plump out with it from the pulpit of a Christian 
church. And many of Beecher's parishioners had sense enough 
to see that Lincoln was not merely a better man but a better 
politician than Beecher. But there we run again into Beecher 's 
limiting private impurity. He was not merely a snob, but a 
sincere snob. 

Beecher was to achieve worse flops than this. In the year 
1887, when strikes were sweeping the country, Beecher under- 
took to rehabilitate his smirched reputation by coming out 
as the defender of "law and order" and "life, liberty, and 
prosperity" to quote his significant revision of Jefferson. He 

Is the great working class oppressed? . . . yes, undoubtedly, it 
is ... God has intended the great to be great and the little to be 
little . . . the trades union, originated under the European system, 
destroys liberty. ... I do not say that a dollar a day is enough to 
support a working man, but it is enough to support a man! . . . 
not enough to support a man and five children if a man would 


insist on smoking and drinking beer. . . . But the man who cannot 
live on bread and water is not fit to live. 

One can scarcely do better than to quote Paxton Hibben's 
comment on this catastrophic muff, which the cartoonists ex- 
ploited for years afterwards: 

As the slogan of a great crusade in the leadership of which Beecher 
could reconquer the esteem of the American public, this bread and 
water doctrine somehow lacked pulling power. 

Beecher was not so much a cynic as a charlatan, and the 
limiting vice of charlatans is that they tend to take themselves 
seriously. That is bad business and the more sophisticated 
charlatans like Elbert Hubbard are careful not to handicap 
their operations by private impurities of this sort. Moreover, 
Beecher was sloppy and careless. Take his flier in advertising 
in connection with Jay Cooke's Northern Pacific promotion 

In January, 1870, Beecher received $15,000 worth of 
Northern Pacific stock for the express purpose of influencing 
the public mind to favor the new railroad. Beecher's aid was 
to include the use of the Christian Union, a newspaper which 
he edited. The matter came to light and Beecher was roundly 
denounced. The moral would seem to be that Beecher should 
have been more careful as were some of his parishioners, like 
"Tearful Tommy" Shearman, clerk of Plymouth Church, 
who were also in on the proposition. The modern method of 
accomplishing the required enlightenment of public opinion 
would have been for Jay Cooke to place a substantial adver- 
tising contract with the Christian Union and then threaten 
to cancel it if Beecher failed to "co-operate." Theodore Tilton, 
the man whose wife Beecher begged love from and whom he 
ruined and drove into exile Theodore Tilton, also an editor, 


told Jay Cooke to go to hell. But Tilton was a good deal of 
a man. 

Beecher, like other divided souls, was not his own master. 
His physical amativeness appears to have been genuine, and 
he was an authentic sentimentalist, if there is such a thing. 
And he really did hate his father and his father's Calvinism. 
So in the end, when it was fairly safe to do so, Beecher came 
clean on one count. He denounced the Calvinist hell, whose 
flames had been licking his conscience for all those many years. 
Call it wish-fulfilment if you like, but Beecher stood up in 
Plymouth Church and said: 

To tell me that back of Christ is a God who for unnumbered 
centuries has gone on creating man and sweeping them like dead 
flies nay, like living ones into hell is to ask me to worship a being 
as much worse than the conception of a medieval devil as can be 
imagined. ... I will not worship cruelty. I will worship love that 
sacrifices itself for the good of those who err, and that is as patient 
with them as a mother is with a sick child. 

On the whole this was a pretty good negative-appeal adver- 
tisement. But it wasn't entirely well-timed. Beecher had to 
alter the slant several times before he hit the bull's eye of 
public opinion that wise "everybody" to whom he dedicated 
his "usefulness." 

Not a pleasant figure, Beecher. Half sincere and more than 
half neurotic charlatans are never pleasant, nor are their lives 
at all happy. And in age their faces look like the wrath of God. 


In the sequence thus far we have seen a statesman, a finan- 
cier, a showman and a preacher, using the philosophy and 
techniques of salesmanship and presenting themselves, with 
greater or less success, as heroes for the admiration of the 


crowd. None of them was a professional advertising man. But 
all of them were crowd leaders engaged in selling themselves; 
also in selling the middle-class acquisitive ethic, and in round- 
ing out the body of rationalization which the expansion of 
American industrial capitalism required. Advertising, as Mr. 
Roy Dickinson, president of Printers' Ink, has pointed out, 
is not an independent economic or social entity. It is merely 
a function of business management, and all these American 
crowd heroes were business men, first, last and always. 

In Elbert Hubbard, however, we encounter the advertising 
man per se, a professional of professionals. All the others had 
"callings" in which, to earn divine favor, they were obliged 
to be successful. To be successful they were obliged to employ 
the techniques of salesmanship, of showmanship, of advertis- 
ing, since these were the most effective techniques of leader- 
ship and of rule in the system as they found it. But Hubbard 
was called to the pure priesthood of advertising from the 
beginning, and by his success in this "calling" became a crowd 
hero. True, they called him a great writer, and a great printer, 
but the rose of advertising smells the same by whatever name 
it is called; in effect he never wrote or printed anything but 
advertisements. This, as we shall see, is equally true of that 
other great professional, Bruce Barton. 

Elbert Hubbard deserves much more careful and detailed 
study than he has received at the hands of his biographers. 
He was born in 1856 in Bloomington, Illinois, the son of a 
physician. At thirty he was already a highly successful adver- 
tising man in the employ of a Buffalo, N. Y., soap manufac- 
turer; among the sales techniques which he helped to de- 
velop were the use of premiums and various devices of credit 
extension. In 1892, he had made enough money to retire and 
give himself a college education. He entered Harvard as an 
undergraduate, but soon gave it up. Obviously President Eliot 
and his academic co-workers didn't know what America was 
all about. Hubbard wasn't sure himself, but he had a hunch. 


It was the period of rococo enthusiasms in art, in economics, 
in politics. Hubbard went to England, met William Morris, 
and cheerfully appropriated all the salable elements of Mor- 
ris's social and aesthetic philosophy. He knew what he wanted, 
did Hubbard, and especially what he didn't want. He wasn't 
having any of Morris's militant socialism for one thing. As far 
as radicalism was concerned, Franklin's "surrogate of appear- 
ance" was what Hubbard required in other words a "front." 
And in his later career as strike-breaker and big business 
apologist he discarded even that. As for art, Hubbard made 
haste on his return to America to debauch everything that 
was good in the Morris aesthetic and to heighten and distort 
what was bad to the proportions of burlesque. The quantity 
of typographic and other sham "craftsmanship" spawned by 
Hubbard's East Aurora workshop is too huge even to cata- 
logue. Some of the de luxe editions he got out sold for $500 
apiece. He knew his American self-made business man, did 
Hubbard, and the cultural "surrogates of appearance" which 
the tycoons of the nineties required for their libraries were 
hand-illuminated by a "genius" long hair, flowing tie and 
everything to the order of the patron. 

The "people like to be fooled" said Barnum. But Hubbard 
was sharp enough to see that the enterprise required none of 
the elaborate paraphernalia of dwarfs, elephants and white 
whales that the pioneer showman assembled. Hubbard was a 
one-man circus, and a one-man Chautauqua. He edited and 
wrote a one-man magazine, The Philistine, and ran a one-man 
strike-breaking agency. A solo artist if ever there was one. 
True he had helpers and disciples, but none was ever per- 
mitted to share the limelight with the only original Fra 
Elbertus. His point of view about the help was accurately 
expressed in A Message to Garcia. 

It is not book learning young men need, but a stiffening of the 
rertebrae which will cause them to be loyal to trust, to act promptly, 


to concentrate their energies, do the thing, "carry a message to 

A hard taskmaster, the Fra, who got the efficiency idea 
early and gave it its necessary ethical and moral rationaliza- 
tion. Carping critics suggested that Hubbard's chief industry 
at East Aurora was working his disciples. But big business 
seized upon A Message to Garcia as a revelation from Sinai, 
and the Fra simply coined money from then on. Hubbard 
wrote in this classic manifesto which corporation executives 
bought and distributed by the hundred thousand to their 

"He would drop a tear for the men who are struggling to 
carry on a great enterprise, whose working hours are not 
limited by the whistle and whose hair is fast turning white 
through the struggle to hold in line dowdy indifference, slip- 
shod imbecility and heartless ingratitude which but for their 
enterprise would be both hungry and homeless." 

That, it would appear, was the only cause over which Elbert 
Hubbard ever dropped a genuine tear. It was his own cause 
because he was a capitalist in his own right. (By 1911, his 
plant at East Aurora included two hotels, a group of factory 
buildings, and a farm, and he had five hundred people on his 
payroll.) It was also the cause of the expanding capitalist 
economy and the correlative acquisitive ethic, which came to 
full maturity during the two decades preceding the war. 

One wonders a little at the harshness with which Hubbard 
rebuffed the craving of the white-collar slave for "book-learn- 
ing." He himself was a kind of philosophical and literary 
magpie who lined his nest with trifles gathered from the most 
recondite sources, both ancient and modern. These, after hav- 
ing received a Hubbardian twist, were dished up in the 
Philistine and the Fra as the authentic pot-distilled wisdom 
of the sage of East Aurora. 

He wrote so beautifully, sighed the newspaper critics of 


that May-tide of commercial sentimentality which piled high 
and shattered itself upon the realities of the war. In 1915, 
Elbert Hubbard went down with the Lusitania, and the 
Literary Digest in recording the event, quoted this tribute 
by Agnes Herbert which appeared in the London Daily 

Give me, I pray you, the magic of Elbert Hubbard. None of your 
Hardys, your Barries, your Kiplings for me. The pen of Elbert Hub- 
bard, an* it please you. . . . Scoffers called him a literary faker. 
On occasion he was so. He popularized his knowledge of the great 
philosophers and transposed them so that the man in the street who 
would avoid the original teachers as he would the plague, swallowed 
the carefully wrapped up wisdom gratefully. . . . Everything 
Elbert Hubbard touched was made beautiful by the magic of his 
mind. He was the greatest advertising writer in the States and his 
methods turned the crying of wares into a literary adventure. Each 
was a faceted gem not to be passed by. 

This seems a little lush, perhaps. The tribute of one Harold 
Bolce, writing under the title "Hubbard, the Homo, Plus" in 
the Cosmopolitan for March, 1911, is more to the point. 

Elbert Hubbard realized long ago that he was an heir of the ages 
and he has foreclosed. He is rich, happy, healthy and wise. He has 
the woman he loves. . . . He has struck pay dirt on Parnassus. . . . 

"In addition to factories and fields, the Fra has at least a quarter 
of a million followers. Hubbard is not a crank. 'Whom do you 
represent?' was asked of Harriman when that great financier was 
beginning his remarkable career. 'I represent myself,' was the reply. 
Similarly Hubbard does. He does not even constitute a part of 
the movements his writings have helped to promote. . . . 

"A New Thought convention was in session at his inn, the 
delegates paying full rates and getting their money's worth. 
'What is New Thought?' asked a journalist. "Blamed if I know,' 
said Hubbard. . . . Mr. Hubbard is sane as sane as a cash register. 


In many ways he is, perhaps, the most roundly gifted genius since 
Benjamin Franklin." 

The Fra's production of advertising copy, not counting his 
Little Journeys to the Homes of the Great including the 
home of Lydia Pinkham's Vegetable Compound was enor- 
mous. As Joseph Wood Krutch pointed out in The Nation, 

He is the spiritual father of all the copy which begins with an 
anecdote about Socrates and ends with the adjuration to insist upon 
the only genuine article in soapless shaving cream. He taught the 
merchant swank. 

Toward the end of Hubbard's career, he became over- 
greedy and overconfident. The small change of lecture fees 
and book royalties was not enough. He had become a pretty 
important fellow and felt that he was worth important 
money. His price on one recorded occasion, for a job of 
literary strike-breaking, was about $200,000. Does this sound 
excessive? It sounded a little high even to John D. Rocke- 
feller and to Ivy Lee, his public relations counsel in the 
lamentable affair of the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company. 
The correspondence was reprinted in Harper's Weekly, Jan. 
30, 1915, under the title, "Elbert Hubbard's Price," and the 
first letter is dated June 9, 1914. 

Dear Mr. Rockefeller: 

I have been out in Colorado and know a little about the situation 
there. It seems to me that your stand is eminently right, proper and 
logical. A good many of the strikers are poor, unfortunate, ignorant 
foreigners who imagine there is a war on [the bullets that riddled 
the strikers' tents at Ludlow were doubtless purely imaginary J. R.] 
and that they are fighting for liberty. They are men with the 
fighting habit preyed on by agitators. . . . 

Hubbard went on to cite an article he had written about. 


the Michigan copper country and said he was writing one 
about Colorado. He mentioned his mailing list of 1,000,000 
names of members of Boards of Trade, Chambers of Com- 
merce, Advertising Clubs, Rotarians, Jovians, schoolteachers, 
judges and Members of Congress. He quoted a price of $200 
a thousand for extra copies of the issue of The Fra in which 
his planned article would appear. He concluded: 

Just here, I cannot refrain from expressing my admiration for 
those very industrious, hard-working people, Bill Haywood, Charles 
Moyer, Mother Jones, Emma Goldman, Lincoln Steffens and Upton 
Sinclair. Why don't you benefit the world ... (by stating the 
Rockefellers' side of the case. J. R.) ? 

Elbert missed out on that one, although he was persistent 
enough. He played golf with the elder Rockefeller. He wrote 
repeatedly to the well-known Mr. Welborn, President of the 
Colorado Fuel and Iron Company. "Do I make myself clear, 
boys?" he seemed to be saying. He did. Ivy Lee cannily sug- 
gested that Elbert be permitted every facility to gather ma- 
terial for his article. Then if Mr. Welborn liked it, he could 
doubtless arrange about the price. Ivy Lee knew his Fra. He 
wasn't buying any pig in a poke from Elbert Hubbard. 

The proposition, as the editor of Harper's Weekly pointed 
out, was in two parts: 

i.) The Fra offered to sell his opinion. 

2.) The Fra offered to make an investigation in support 
of his opinion. 

The Fra's one-man Chautauqua came to Middletown, N. Y. 
when the writer was in high school and also working on the 
local daily paper. It came twice in fact. The first year Elbert 
lectured on The March of the Centuries. It was a hodge-podge 
of Thoreau, Whitman, Emerson, Michelangelo and who not. 
I recall being a bit puzzled, although I reported the lecture 
respectfully enough, as was proper considering the eminence 


of the lecturer. The next year, I was a year older and so was 
the Fra. He was getting pretty seedy, in fact, I thought. 
Moreover, his lecture, under a different title, was word for 
word the same balderdash he had given us the year before. 
The next day in the columns of the Middletown Daily Times- 
Press I took out after him with shrill cries of rage. The owner 
of the paper was away and I had fun. The piece was picked 
up and reprinted widely. At the moment, as I remember it, 
Hubbard had got himself a rating as a Bohemian immoralist, 
so that the up-state editors had declared an open season on 
the Fra. 

My employer, when he came back, was horrified. It was the 
first time in the history of his management that the paper 
had printed an unkind word about anybody. But the Fra 
didn't mind it was just so much publicity grist for his mill. 
The public likes to be fooled. 

There seems to be nothing final to say about Fra Elbertus 
except that he advertised and sold everything and everybody 
he could lay his hands on: William Morris, Michelangelo, 
Thoreau, Emerson, Karl Marx, Socrates and Paracelsus. And 
himself, Elbert Hubbard, a founding father of the adver- 
tising profession "the most roundly gifted genius since 
Benjamin Franklin." 




ALTHOUGH Mr. Bruce Barton represents a logical projec- 
tion of the rising curve along which we have traced the evo- 
lution of the American hero, he is, after Elbert Hubbard, 
rather an anti-climax. Mr. Barton's role in the war, as director 
of publicity for the Y.M.C.A. was comparable, in a way, to 
that of Jay Cooke in the Civil War. But Mr. Barton's role 
was much smaller and the techniques employed were much 
more impersonal and mechanized. Moreover, this mechaniza- 
tion and industrialization of sales publicity became even more 
pronounced during the period of advertising expansion that 
lasted from the Armistice to the fall of 1929. It would seem 
that Mr. Barton's distinctive contribution to the evolution 
of the American hero was the professionalization of advertis- 
ing salesmanship and its sanctification in terms of a modern- 
ized version of the Protestant Ethic. The analysis is compli- 
cated by the fact that we are dealing here with a contemporary 
figure whose career is not completed; nor are the facts of his 
career readily available. This, however, is perhaps not so im- 
portant as it might seem. Mr. Barton has been a prolific 
writer, and it is with the evolution of his thought that we 
are primarily concerned. 

The Man Nobody Knows was published in 1924, the year 
following the publication of Veblen's Absentee Oivnership, 
which, in general, has supplied the framework of theory for 
this analysis. It was only with the publication of this book 


that Mr. Barton became, in any sense, a national figure. In 
retrospect it is clear that the ad-man's pseudoculture had 
already entered upon its period of decadence. The far flung 
radiance of advertising during this period was a false dawn; 
the fever-flush of a culture already doomed and dying at the 
roots. But it is precisely in such periods that the nature of 
the culture is most explicitly expressed and documented. The 
Man Nobody Knows is an almost perfect thing of its kind: 
more significant and revealing as a sociological document, I 
think, than either Barnum's autobiography or Hubbard's 
Message to Garcia. We see the same thing in the Athens of 
Pericles. As Euripides was to the more virile poets of the 
Athenian rise to power, Aeschylus and Sophocles, so Bruce 
Barton is to Barnum and Fra Elbertus. 

When Mr. Barton published The Man Nobody Knows he 
had already achieved some standing as a writer of articles 
and fiction for the popular women's magazines and his lay 
sermonettes were appearing in the Red Book. The advertising 
agency in which he was senior partner was rapidly expand- 
ing and the chorus of applause which greeted The Man No- 
body Knows was no small factor in enhancing the prestige 
and profits of its author's more strictly secular activities in 
promoting the sale of such products as Lysol, Hind's Honey 
and Almond Cream, The Harvard Classics, and a little later, 
the Gillette safety razor and blades. 

In 1924 the writer was in California, employed at part time 
by a San Francisco advertising agency and for the rest, en- 
gaged in seeing the country, writing poetry and participating 
in indigenous cultural enterprises including the editing of an 
anthology of contemporary California poetry. In connection 
with this latter enterprise, conducted in collaboration with 
Miss Genevieve Taggard and the late George Sterling, I 
encountered the poetry of Robinson Jeffers, whose work was 
then almost unknown and who was living at Carmel on the 
California coast. Greatly excited, I went to the editor of a 


magazine published in San Francisco and devoted to the eco- 
nomic and cultural interests of the Pacific coast. I informed 
this editor that California had a great poet and that I should 
like to call attention to his work in the pages of the magazine. 

It is at this point that Bruce Barton enters the picture. 
Shortly before, I had been approached by this editor, or his 
associate, with a practical proposition. The lay sermons of 
Mr. Barton in the Red Book were considered highly edify- 
ing by the ex-Kansans and ex-Iowans who had sold their 
farms and come to sun their declining years on the Cali- 
fornia littoral. The editor felt that if he was to increase his 
circulation, he must offer equivalent literary and philosophi- 
cal merchandize. I was an advertising man. Mr. Barton was 
an advertising man. Couldn't I write something just as good 
as Mr. Barton's sermonettes? 

I tried. As I studied my model it seemed a simple enough 
task. I, too, could quote Socrates, and Emerson, and Lincoln. 
I had the requisite theological background my grandfather 
had been a shouting Methodist. And as for the style, I, too, 
I thought, could be simple though erudite, chaste though 
human, practical but portentous. 

Well, I wore out one whole typewriter ribbon on that job 
and produced nothing but sour parodies. Some imp of per- 
versity stood at my shoulder and whispered obscenities into 
my ear. I quoted Marx when I had intended to quote Napo- 
leon or Benjamin Franklin. Desperately I tried to shake off 
this incubus. Once I started with a quotation from Louisa 
May Alcott, but when I pulled it out of the typewriter it 
read like a contribution to Captain Billy's Whizbang. 

Some of the least awful of my efforts I submitted to my 
prospective employer. He shook his head. They lacked the 
human touch, he said. As a matter of fact, they were human, 
all too human. My spirit was willing but the flesh was weak. 

The editor was kindly and told me to keep trying. I was 
still supposed to be trying when I came in to bring up the 


matter of Robinson Jeffers. As I recall it, there was some con- 
fusion on that occasion. The editor was still hot on the trail 
of a Bruce Barton ersatz and he couldn't get it through his 
head that I was talking about something else. When I finally 
managed to get within hailing distance of his attention, he 
consented reluctantly to print an unpaid review of Jeffers' 
privately printed Tamar. The magazine did print part of my 
review but the editor wrote a footnote in which he dissented 
strongly from my enthusiasm. 

About two years later, I saw a copy of a magazine pub- 
lished at the Carmel artists' colony. The center spread was 
an advertisement of a Carmel realtor headed "Carmel, the 
Home of Jeffers." That gave me pause. If I had only gone to 
the realtors in the first place, I reflected, I might have made 
better headway with that Jeffers' promotion. Later, too, I 
came to understand why I had failed so miserably in my 
attempt to imitate those Barton sermonettes. The simple fact 
that they were advertisements had never occurred to me. They 
were and are advertisements, designed to sell the American 
pseudoculture to itself. 

I was used to writing advertisements. Maybe, if I had tried, 
I could have written correct imitations of Mr. Barton's adver- 
tisements of obscure but contented earthworms, of the virtues 
of industry and diligence, of the vanity of fame. Also, maybe 
not. Mr. Barton may be only a minor artist, but I suspect 
that he is inimitable. 

The digression is perhaps excusable in that it reveals the 
early spread of the Barton influence as compared with that 
of a major poet of the era whom the average American has 
never heard of. By the time I returned to New York, Mr. 
Barton had published The Man Nobody Knows and was soon 
a national figure comparable in influence to Henry Ward 
Beecher. Instead of preaching in Plymouth Church, he was 
the honored guest at luncheons of Rotary and Kiwanis clubs 
and Chambers of Commerce. Instead of editing a religious 


journal early in his career he had edited the short-lived 
Every Week his syndicated sermonettes were published in 
hundreds of newspapers. A professor of homiletics in a well- 
known seminary has assured me that the influence of Mr. 
Barton's writings upon the Protestant Church in America has 
been enormous. The son of a clergyman, brought up in a small 
Middle-Western city, not unlike the "Middletown" so ably 
described by the Lynds, he learned early the lessons of pious 
emulation and of "salesmanlike pusillanimity" which were the 
ineluctable patterns of behavior for all young men of good 
family. And Mr. Barton's family was excellent. His father 
was not merely a popular and respected preacher but a scholar 
of parts, author of a not undistinguished life of Lincoln. But 
this distinction, in the early years at least, brought no propor- 
tionate pecuniary rewards. So Bruce suffered the typical ordeal 
of the minister's son. He had the entree to the best houses in 
the community but no money with which to compete in the 
local arena of conspicuous waste, pecuniary snobbism, etc. 

Here we have the two opposing absolutes which, in his later 
creative years, Mr. Barton undertook to reconcile: the quite 
genuine Christian piety, and enforced asceticism of the par- 
sonage, and the "spirit of self-help and collusive cupidity 
that made and animated the country town at its best." The 
quotation is from Veblen's study of the country town in 
Absentee Ownership. The neo-Calvinist ethical rationaliza- 
tions described by Max Weber are brought into sharp relief 
by Veblen's analysis. In the following passage he seems almost 
to be laying down the ideological ground plan for Mr. Bar- 
ton's subsequent career. Says Veblen: 

Solvency not only puts a man in the way of acquiring merit, but 
it makes him over into a substantial citizen whose opinions and 
preferences have weight and who is, therefore, enabled to do much 
good for his fellow citizens that is to say, shape them somewhat 
to his own pattern. To create mankind in one's own image is a 


work that partakes of the divine, and it is a high privilege which 
the substantial citizen commonly makes the most of. Evidently this 
salesmanlike pursuit of the net gain has a high cultural value at the 
same time that it is invaluable as a means to a competence. 

One must not be misled into regarding Mr. Barton's specific 
contribution as of the iconoclastic or creative sort. He found 
ready to hand the ethical code and the theological rationaliza- 
tion of this code. His task was merely that of the continuer, 
the popularizer. Here in Veblen's words is a formulation, 
complete in all essentials, of the idealistic code of the adver- 
tising agency business, of which Mr. Barton was to become so 

distinguished an ornament: 

The country town and the business of its substantial citizens are 
and have ever been an enterprise in salesmanship; and the begin- 
ning of wisdom in salesmanship is equivocation. There is a decent 
measure of equivocation which runs its course on the hither side of 
prevarication or duplicity, and an honest salesman such "an honest 
man as will bear watching" will endeavor to confine his best 
efforts to this highly moral zone where stands the upright man who 
is not under oath to tell the whole truth. But "self-preservation 
knows no moral law"; and it is not to be overlooked that there 
habitually enter into the retail trade of the country towns many 
competitors who do not falter at prevarication and who even do not 
hesitate at outright duplicity; and it will not do for an honest man 
to let the rogues get away with the best or any of the trade, 
at the risk of too narrow a margin of profit on his own business 
that is to say a narrower margin than might be had in the absence 
of scruple. And then there is always the base line of what the la\r 
allows; and what the law allows can not be far wrong. 

When Mr. Barton was going to high school and Sunday 
school, one of the things he could scarcely help noticing was 
the characteristic red store front of the A. & P. Big Business 
was beginning to build the distributive counterpart of the 


emerging system of mass production. Veblen notes this transi- 
tion as follows: 

Toward the close of the century, and increasingly since the turn 
of the century, the trading community of the country towns has 
been losing its initiative as a maker of charges and has by degrees 
become tributary to the great vested interests that move in the 
background of the market. In a way the country towns have in an 
appreciable degree fallen into the position of tollgate keepers for 
the distribution of goods and collection of customs for the large 
absentee owners of the business. 

Mr. Barton's eminence both as advertising man and as an 
author became established during the postwar decade. As 
most people realize by this time, the catastrophic economic 
and cultural effects of the war were deferred and postdated 
so far as America was concerned. This postdating was ac- 
complished by salesmanship and promotion applied to new 
industries notably automobiles, the movies and radio. It was 
without doubt the rankest period of financial and commercial 
thievery in our whole history. Salesmanship became a thing-in- 
itself, incorporated, watered, reorganized, re-watered, aided 
and abetted by the state, and then duly sanctified and vali- 
dated under the Constitution. Veblen's concept of Absentee 
Ownership became less and less descriptive of the actual situa- 
tion in which the going rule became: "never give a stock- 
holder a break." The more realistic terms were no longer own- 
ers and managers but "insiders" and "outsiders." One has 
only to refer to the Insull affair, and to the exploits of Messrs. 
Mitchell and Wiggin of the financial oligarchy, to establish the 
justice of this description. The reductio ad absurdum of the 
capitalist economy was accomplished by the "profitless pros- 
perity" of the New Era. It will remain Mr. Barton's undying 
distinction that, in The Man Nobody Knows, he accomplished 
the reductio ad absurdum of "the Protestant Ethic." 


With this background we are now in a position to give Mr. 
Barton's masterpiece the sober and respectful attention which 
it should long ago have received at the hands of sociologists 
and literary critics. It is worth recalling that Henry Ward 
Beecher, too, wrote a life of Christ and that Elbert Hubbard, 
albeit a free thinker, was also faithful after his fashion in that 
he did not fail to exploit such elements of the Christian tradi- 
tion as suited his market. The Christs of Renan, of Nietzsche, 
of Henry Ward Beecher, of Elbert Hubbard, of Giovanni 
Papini, of Bruce Barton these and other interpretations of 
the Christ figure should provide an interesting and instruc- 
tive gallery for the student of human ecology. But in the 
space at our disposal here we must confine ourselves to Mr. 
Barton's Christ. Clearly Mr. Barton felt that if the Saviour 
was to live again in the mind and heart of the twentieth cen- 
tury American business man, a radical though reverent recon- 
struction of the legendary Christ was required. 

The first point to note about The Man Nobody Knows is 
that the book is an advertisement. Mr. Barton is clearly en- 
gaged in "selling" the twentieth century American sales and 
advertising executive to the country at large and to himself. 
This secondary aspect of Mr. Barton's unique promotion en- 
terprise is very important. It must be remembered that in 
terms of social prestige the big-time salesman, and especially 
the advertising man, was still, in 1924, an upstart and a 
parvenu; this in spite of the strategic, even crucial impor- 
tance of the salesman, the promoter, the advertising man in 
the struggle of business to keep the disruptive force of ap- 
plied science from destroying the capitalist economy. In 1924 
we were already face to face with the tragi-comic social para- 
dox which Stuart Chase describes in his Economy of Abun- 
dance. The only method of resolving that paradox open to the 
business man was to sell more goods at a profit and, when the 


"sales resistance" of a progressively dis-employed population 
couldn't be broken down, to sabotage industry by monopoly 
control of production and prices. 

So Mr. Barton was the man of the hour on more than one 
count. Despite the stout labors of P. T. Barnum, Elbert Hub- 
bard and others, advertising still bore the stigma of its patent 
medicine origins. In the callous view of the crowd, the ad- 
man still wore the rattlesnake belt and brandished the pills 
of the medicine man who, in the light of flaring gasoline 
torches, had for many decades been giving the admiring citi- 
zens of Veblen's "country town" practical lessons in the 
theory of business enterprise and the uses of salesmanlike 

But times had changed. Advertising on the grand scale had 
become an industry no less essential than coal or steel. It had 
become a profession endorsed, sanctified and subsidized by 
dozens of Greek-porticoed "Schools of Business Administra- 
tion" in which a new priesthood of "business economists" 
translated the techniques of mass prevarication into suitable 
academic euphemisms. Advertising in other words, mass 
cozenage had become a major function of business man- 
agement. The ad-man had become the first lieutenant of the 
new Caesars of America's commercial imperium not merely 
on the economic front but also on the cultural front. 

The rattlesnake belt and the gasoline torch were no longer 
appropriate for so eminent a functionary. They must be 
burned, buried, destroyed, forgotten. The ad-man needed 
glorification and needed it badly. 

It was to this task that Mr. Barton addressed himself with 
an elan, an imaginative sweep and daring that can be ade- 
quately characterized only by the word "genius." Consider 
the magnitude of the enterprise. It was necessary not merely 


to reconcile the ways of the ad-man to God, but to redeem 
and rehabilitate a tedious and discredited Saviour in the eyes 
of a faithless and materialist generation. Mr. Barton accom- 
plished both of these stupendous tasks in a single brief book. 
And he was able to do this because, as a true son of his father, 
he had not fallen from grace. Like a modern Sir Galahad, his 
strength was as the strength of ten because his heart was pure. 
He was sincere. 

I am aware that certain readers, who have not had the 
benefits of Mr. Barton's strict upbringing, will probably 
question this statement. I can only invite them to consider 
the evidence. 

In the best homiletic tradition, Mr. Barton starts with a 
scriptural text: 

"Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's Business?" 
(The italics are Mr. Barton's.) 

The people settle back in their pews, the little boy in the 
second row finds a safe cache for his gum, the rustle of gar- 
ments ceases, and the little boy hears the preface of Mr. Bar- 
ton's great book entitled "How it came to be written." 

The little boy's body sat bolt upright in the rough wooden chair, 
but his mind was very busy. 

This was his weekly hour of revolt. 

The kindly lady who could never seem to find her glasses would 
have been terribly shocked if she had known what was going on 
inside the little boy's mind. 

"You must love Jesus," she said every Sunday, "and God." 

The little boy did not say anything. He was afraid to say any- 
thing; he was almost afraid that something would happen to him 
because of the things he thought. 

Love God! Who was always picking on people for having a good 
time, and sending little boys to hell because they couldn't do better 
in a world which He had made so hard! Why didn't God take some 
one His own size? 

Love Jesus! The little boy looked up at the picture which hung 


on the Sunday school wall. It showed a pale young man with flabby 
forearms and a sad expression. The young man had red whiskers. 

Then the little boy looked across to the other wall. There was 
Daniel, good old Daniel, standing off the lions. The little boy liked 
Daniel. He liked David, too, with the trusty sling that landed a 
stone square on the forehead of Goliath. And Moses, with his rod 
and his big brass snake. They were winners those three. He won- 
dered if David could whip Jeffries. Samson could! Say, that would 
have been a fight! 

But Jesus! Jesus was the "lamb of God." The little boy did not 
know what that meant, but it sounded like Mary's little lamb. 
Something for girls sissified. Jesus was also "meek and lowly," a 
"man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." He went around for 
three years telling people not to do things. 

Sunday was Jesus' day; it was wrong to feel comfortable or laugh 
on Sunday. 

The little boy was glad when the superintendent thumped the 
bell and announced: "We will now sing the closing hymn." One 
more bad hour was over. For one more week the little boy had got 
rid of Jesus. 

Years went by and the boy grew up and became a business man. 

He began to wonder about Jesus. 

He said to himself: "Only strong magnetic men inspire great 
enthusiasm and build great organizations. Yet Jesus built the great- 
est organization of all. It is extraordinary. . . ." 

He said, "I will read what the men who knew Jesus personally 
said about Him. I will read about Him as though He were a new 
historical character, about whom I had never heard anything at all." 

The man was amazed. 

A physical weakling! Where did they get that idea? Jesus pushed 
a plane and swung an adze; He was a successful carpenter. He 
slept outdoors and spent His days walking around His favorite 
lake. His muscles were so strong that when He drove the money- 
changers out, nobody dared to oppose Him! 

A kill-joy! He was the most popular dinner guest in Jerusalem! 
The criticism which proper people made was that he spent too 
much time with publicans and sinners (very good fellows, on the 

whole, the man thought) and enjoyed society too much. They 
called Him a "wine bibber and a gluttonous man." 

A failure! He picked up twelve men from the bottom ranks of 
business and forged them into an organization that conquered the 

When the man had finished his reading he exclaimed, "This is a 
man nobody knows." 

"Some day," said he, "some one will write a book about Jesus. 
Every business man will read it and send it to his partners and his 
salesmen. For it will tell the story of the founder of modern busi- 

Note the "action pattern" suggested in the last sentence. 
It is a recognized device of advertising copy technique: "Mail 
the coupon today!" "Look for the trade-mark!" "Send no 
money," etc. Business men got the point and distributed 
thousands of copies of the book. In fact no other lay sermon, 
save only Elbert Hubbard's Message to Garcia, has been so 
generously subsidized in this way. 

Note, too, the evocation of the "little boy" who is, of 
course, Mr. Barton himself. But he is also all the other little 
boys who had squirmed in those straight pews of the Protes- 
tant Communion and now ruled the church of business. Out 
of the mouths of babes. Mr. Barton, who is, in fact, a re- 
markable example of arrested development, didn't have to 
get down on his hands and knees to play church with these 
children. Standing upright and fearless, he saw eye to eye 
with every fourteen-year-old intelligence in the hierarchy 
of business. 

The process of imaginative identification with the Saviour, 
suggested in the preface, is continued in a sequence of logical 
and reverent chapters: "The Executive," "The Outdoor 
Man," "The Sociable Man," "His Method," "His Advertise- 
ments," "The Founder of Modern Business," "The Master." 

It is regrettable that space is lacking for extensive quota- 


tion. No paraphrase of Mr. Barton's remarkable chronicle 
can do more than faintly suggest the apostolic glow and con- 
viction of the original. In the first chapter he notes that the 
great Nazarene, like all successful business executives, was 
above personal resentments and petty irritations. When the 
disciples, weary at the end of the day, were rebuffed by in- 
hospitable villagers, they urged Jesus to call down fire from 
heaven and destroy them. Here is Mr. Barton's imaginative 
rendering of the Saviour's behavior on this occasion: 

There are times when nothing a man can say is nearly so power- 
ful as saying nothing. Every executive knows that instinctively. 
To argue brings him down to the level of those with whom he 
argues; silence convicts them of their folly; they wish they had not 
spoken so quickly; they wonder what he thinks. The lips of Jesus 
tightened; His fine features showed the strain of the preceding 
weeks and in His eyes there was a foreshadowing of the more bitter 
weeks to come. . . . He had so little time, and they were con- 
stantly wasting His time. ... He had come to save mankind, 
and they wanted Him to gratify His personal resentment by burn- 
ing up a village! 

So, in later years, Mr. Barton, like Jesus, like Lincoln, knew 
how to ignore the jeers of captious critics. He was a personage 
and knew it. He had important work to do. He had to write 
with his own hand the advertising message of important 
Christian advertisers, Jewish advertisers and just advertisers. 
And he had to direct the work of others and endure, like 
Jesus, the stupidity and folly of his helpers; like Elbert Hub- 
bard, he was sometimes moved to cry out against the "slip- 
shod imbecility and heartless ingratitude which but for their 
enterprise would be both hungry and homeless." Once in a 
symposium on what the advertising agency business most 
needed, he wrote, "God give us men." 

It would seem probable, too, that Mr. Barton was not un- 


mindful of the career of his great predecessor, Fra Elbertus. 
Did Mr. Barton think of himself as playing Jesus to the Fra's. 
John the Baptist? Probably not, but the following passage 
suggests the comparison: 

Another young man had grown up near by and was beginning to 
be heard from in the larger world. His name was John. How much 
the two boys may have seen of each other we do not know; but 
certainly the younger, Jesus, looked up to and admired his hand- 
some, fearless cousin. We can imagine with what eager interest he 
must have received the reports of John's impressive success at the 
capital. He was the sensation of the season. The fashionable folk 
of the city were flocking out to the river to hear his denunciations; 
some of them even accepted his demand for repentance and were 
baptized. ... A day came when he (Jesus) was missing from the 
carpenter shop; the sensational news spread through the streets that 
he had gone to Jerusalem, to John, to be baptized. 

Why boys leave home. Another bright young man digs 
himself out of the sticks and goes to the big town to make 
his fortune. 

In the chapter entitled "The Outdoor Man" Mr. Barton 
undertakes to prove that Jesus was what is known as a he-man, 
somewhat resembling Mr. Barton himself in stature and 
physique. In support of this contention he points out: 

1. He was a carpenter and carpenters develop powerful 
forearms. No weakling could have wielded the whip that 
drove the money-changers from the temple. 

2. He was attractive to women, including "Mary and 
Martha, two gentle maiden ladies who lived outside Jerusa- 
lem" and Mary Magdalene, whose sins he forgave. 

In "The Sociable Man" Jesus is seen at the Marriage Feast 
of Cana. If not the life of the party He is at least genial and 
tactful. The wine gives out and Mr. Barton exclaims: "Pic- 
ture if you will the poor woman's chagrin. This was her 


daughter's wedding the one social event in the life of the 
family." So Jesus, to uphold the family's middle-class dignity 
turns the water into wine. 

"His Method" describes the selling campaigns of the ob- 
scure Nazarene through which he climbed to the distinction 
of being the "most popular dinner guest in Jerusalem." Paul, 
especially, impresses Mr. Barton Paul, who was "all things 
to all men" and who became the hero of Mr. Barton's latest 
book, He Upset The World. 

"Surely," remarks Mr. Barton, "no one will consider us 
lacking in reverence if we say that every one of the 'prin- 
ciples of modern salesmanship' on which business men so 
much pride themselves, are brilliantly exemplified in Jesus' 
talk and work." 

The final conference with the disciples is presented as a 
kind of "pep" talk similar to those by which, during the late 
New Era, the salesmen of South American bonds were nerved 
to go forth and gather in the savings of widows and orphans. 

"His Advertisements" in Mr. Barton's view were the mir- 
acles. Here is the way one of them, according to Mr. Barton, 
might have been reported in the Capernaum News: 





In the parables, especially, says Mr. Barton, the Master 
wrote admirable advertising copy, and laid the foundations 
of the profession to which Mr. Barton pays this eloquent 


As a profession advertising is young; as a force it is as old as the 
world. The first four words uttered, "Let there be light," consti- 
tute its charter. 

In "The Founder of Modern Business" Mr. Barton finds 
Jesus' recipe for success in the following scriptural quotation: 

Whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister; and 
whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. 

Mr. Barton is quick to identify this as the modern "Serv- 
ice" creed of Rotary. He says: 

. . . quite suddenly, Business woke up to a great discovery. You 
will hear that discovery proclaimed in every sales convention as 
something distinctly modern and up to date. It is emblazoned on 
the advertising pages of every magazine. 

One gets fed up with this sort of thing rather easily. Ad- 
dicts of the faith who find their appetite for the gospel ac- 
cording to Bruce Barton unappeased by the foregoing quo- 
tations, are urged to consult the original. The book ran into 
many editions and duly took its place on the meagre book- 
shelves of the American Babbitry, alongside of the First 
Success Story Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography, the 
Second Success Story P. T. Barnum's Autobiography, and 
a de luxe edition of Elbert Hubbard's The Message to Garcia. 

In due course, Mr. Barton's great book was made into a 
movie, which enjoyed some success and further extended the 
popularity and influence of the author. So far as I know, no 
attempt has been made to sculpture Mr. Barton's re-carpen- 
tered Carpenter in wood, plaster or papier-mache. It would 
seem that the dissemination of the new icon might well have 
been put on a mass-production, mass-distribution basis, like 
that of the Kewpie doll, and Mickey Mouse. The neglect of 


this logical extension of business enterprise is possibly attribut- 
able to the jealous opposition of the vested interests concerned 
with the ancient Propagation of the Faith, to which Veblen 
refers in a passage already quoted. 

The Man Nobody Knows was preceded by a relatively un- 
successful lay sermon entitled What Can A Man Believe? It 
was followed by The Book Nobody Knows, a volume of Old 
and New Testament exegesis, done with Mr. Barton's char- 
acteristic unconventional charm, which found much favor 
in church circles, and among Christian business men. A col- 
lection of Mr. Barton's syndicated sermonettes has been pub- 
lished under the title On the Up and Up. One finishes the 
reading of this volume convinced more than ever that Mr. 
Barton is sincere. Take, for example, the quite charming little 
essay entitled "Real Pleasures," in which the author describes 
his delight in "walking along Fifth Avenue, looking in the 
shop windows, and making a mental inventory of the things 
I don't want." This, from the head of one of America's 
largest advertising agencies, is sheer heresy. But Mr. Barton, 
being exempt from the "vice of little minds," is full of her- 
esies. Elsewhere he praises the simple joys of primitive coun- 
try living. And when asked by "Advertising and Selling" to 
contribute his professional credo to a running symposium 
which included the leading advertising men in America, Mr. 
Barton went much farther than any other contributor in 
recognizing, by implication at least, the inflated and exploita- 
tive nature of the business, and in predicting the present 
drive for government-determined standards and grades. It 
should be added that his firm has for many years been con- 
sidered rather exceptionally "ethical" in its practice; that it 
has never used bought or paid-for testimonials; that it has 
declined much profitable business on ethical grounds; that 
it has doubtless tried to give its clients a fair break always, 
and the public as much of a break as considerations of prac- 
tical business expediency permitted. There are a number of 


agencies of which this may be said, and it isn't saying much. 
Mr. Barton's firm, operating well within the existing code of 
commercial morality, and even striving sincerely to advance 
and stiffen that code, has sponsored and produced huge 
quantities of advertising bunk, of expedient half-truths, etc. 
that being the nature of the business. 

It is clear that in Mr. Barton we have at least four per- 

1. The Sunday School boy who hated the Calvinist Christ 
(the Beecher complex) ; 

2. The infantile, extraverted, climbing American who 
created that grotesque ad-man Christ in his own image, as a 
kind of institutionalized, salesmanlike tailor's dummy, to 
serve as a kind of robot reception clerk for the front office 
of Big Business. 

3. The timid but talented minor essayist and dilettante 
who, given different circumstances, and subjected to a dif- 
ferent set of social compulsions, might have produced a con- 
siderable body of charming and more or less scholarly prose; 
who might even have come to understand something of the 
meaning of the Christ legend and of the ethical values by 
which a civilization lives or dies. 

4. The intelligent, acquisitive, informed man of affairs 
who knows a little of what it is all about, but lacks the nerve 
to do anything about it, except by intermittently adult fits 
and starts. Good old Daniel! Just what lions has Mr. Barton 
ever fought honestly and fought to a finish? 

An interesting figure, slighter on the whole than either 
Beecher or Hubbard, but more complex, perhaps, than either. 
It was the institutionalized and syndicated Barton that came 
to the fore again in his last book He Upset the World, which 
was excellently reviewed by Mr. Irving Fineman, the novelist, 
in the magazine Opinion for April 25, 1932. Mr. Fineman 
notes that Mr. Barton has become a little patronizing in his 
attitude toward The Man. He knows Him better now, per- 


haps; certainly he recognizes that St. Paul was a better busi- 
ness man. Says Mr. Fineman: "It is a bit shocking, no later 
than the twentieth page of this book, to find Bruce Barton 
censuring Jesus however gently! 'He had no fixed method, 
no business-like program. . . . He came not to found a 
church or to formulate a creed; He came to lead a life.' So 
that, once having assigned to each his job to Jesus, as it 
were, the divinely pure genius, and to Paul, the hustling, mun- 
dane entrepreneur it becomes a simple matter for Mr. Barton 
to accept, indulgently, the impracticality of the one, who 
hadn't the sense apparently to syndicate his stuff, and the 
go-getting tactics of the other, who was frankly, "all things 
to all men." 

In his preface, Mr. Barton explains that he hadn't been 
interested in St. Paul at first, but was induced by his pub- 
lisher to re-examine the scriptural sources and thereby con- 
verted to writing the book. Mr. Fineman's parting jibe 
deserves recording: 

"He should be warned however against the wiles of pub- 
lishers, lest one of them induce him to write a little book 
about Judas." 

The implied analogy would be more just if, in Mr. Barton, 
we were dealing with an adult and fully integrated personality, 
but obviously this is not the case. One does not accuse a child 
of betraying anything or anybody. And Mr. Barton exhibits, 
more clearly, I think, than any other contemporary public 
figure, the characteristic infantilism of the American busi- 
ness man. 

One suspects, however, that Mr. Barton has grown up 
sufficiently to regret his masterpiece; indeed, that it is be- 
ginning to haunt him, like a Frankenstein monster. The fol- 
lowing episode, which I have slightly disguised, out of con- 
sideration for the organization involved, would appear to 
confirm this suspicion. 

I was once visited in my office by a lady who represented 


a committee, organized to serve a worthy, sensible, and ad- 
mirable philanthropic cause. The committee was getting out 
a new letterhead, of which she showed me a first proof. She 
explained that she wanted a pregnant sentence that would 
express the high aims of her movement. She had found that 
sentence in The Man Nobody Knows, by Bruce Barton, 
author and Christian advertising man. She had learned that 
I knew Mr. Barton. She knew that his books were copy- 
righted, but? Would I intercede for her and obtain Mr. Bar- 
ton's permission to use as the motto of her society one of the 
most felicitous and beautiful sentences she had ever read? 

Gladly, I replied, wondering what this was all about. But 
what was the sentence? 

She opened the Book. She pointed to the underlined sen- 
tence. It read: "Let there be Light!" 

I dictated a long memorandum urging Mr. Barton to grant 
her request. Mr. Barton was not amused. 





NO DESCRIPTION of the ad-man's pseudoculture can be 
considered complete without some notation of the curious 
atrophies, distortions and perversions of mind and spirit which 
the ad-man himself suffers as a consequence of his profes- 
sional practice. 

I have heard it said of So-and-so and So-and-so in the pro- 
fession: "They are born advertising men." Obviously this 
cannot be true. Even if one assumes the inheritance of ac- 
quired characteristics, the phenomenon of advertising is too 
recent in biological time to have brought about any substan- 
tial modification of human genes. Moreover, although I have 
known many perverse and diabolical little boys, none of these 
creatures was sufficiently monstrous to prompt the suspicion: 
"This will grow up and be an advertising man." 

No, the ad-man is born not of woman, but of the society. 
He is the subhuman or pseudohuman product of an inhuman 
culture. His insanities are not congenital. They are the in- 
sanities of a society which, having failed to embody in its 
growth process any valid economic, ethical or moral con- 
cepts, is moronic in these respects. The ad-man seems excep- 
tional and terrifying merely because his whole being is given 
over to the expression and dissemination of this moronism. 

The ad-man is not necessarily an intellectual prostitute. As 
already pointed out, if one accepts the economic and social 
premises of American capitalism, the ad-man plays a logical 


and necessary role. The production of customers, and the 
control of factory production in the direction of profit-mo- 
tivated obsolescence these are functions in a profit economy 
no less essential than the production of coal or steel. Most 
advertising men feel this very strongly. It gives them confi- 
dence and conviction, so that they are the more easily recon- 
ciled to their habitual and necessary violation of the prin- 
ciples of truth, beauty, intelligence and ordinary decency. 
They are profit-motivated producers of customers, and they 
have the producer's psychology. It is right and beautiful to 
make a customer out of a woman, even though this involves 
making her into a fool, a slave and a greedy neurotic. It is 
so right and so beautiful that the ad-man tends to make the 
same sort of thing out of himself, his family and his friends. 
I have had many friends in the advertising business who have 
been solicitous about me, because of my unorthodox views. 
At various times I have been put to some embarrassment to 
keep them from trying, for the good of my soul, to make 
me also a fool, a slave and a greedy neurotic. Your run of the 
mill ad-man has no inferiority complex; indeed he is posi- 
tively messianic about his profession there isn't a doubt in 
a carload of these fellows. 

This sounds quite mad, but it is also quite true. The in- 
ference, also true, is that the society is mad; the ad-man is 
exceptional only in that he carries more than his share of the 
burden of this madness. 

Hence it is easy to absolve the ad-man on the ground that 
he knows not what he does. This, I think, is a just acquittal 
for the vast majority of the profession. But there are, of 
course, many exceptions. There are many men and women in 
the profession who have explored worlds of the mind and 
the spirit lying beyond this Alice-in-Wonderland world of 
the advertising business. They are perhaps somewhat to be 
blamed, especially those fallen angels who use their excep- 
tional qualities of mind and imagination actively to promote 


what they know to be a very dirty and anti-social traffic. The 
distinction, while tenuous, is, I think, genuine. It is between 
the intellectually sophisticated ad-man who sells a part of 
himself to make a living, and the greedy cynic, often with a 
will-to-power obsession, who sells all of himself. I and most 
of my friends in the business belonged to the first category, 
which is fairly numerous. The will-to-power cynic is quite 
exceptional, and, incidentally, he usually goes mad, too; he 
tends to believe in and justify this acquired, distorted self; 
so that in the end we see this ex-literary man or ex-artist as 
a Captain of Advertising, frothing at the mouth at advertis- 
ing conventions, or leading his hosts of devout, iron-skulled 
ad-men into battle for God, for country and for Wet Smack 
chocolate bars. 

In the portrait studies which follow I have tried to include 
proportionate representation of all three basic types. While 
these studies are based on the writer's observation of real 
people, they are all composite portraits; names, places and 
incidents have been disguised. The writer is not interested in 
attacking individuals; rather he permits himself the faint 
hope that some very likable ad-men who may read this book 
may be freed from the coils of the "systematized illusions" in 
which they have become entangled along with their victims. 
When, as now, we are faced with the necessity of building a 
civilization to replace the self-destroying barbarism which 
has hitherto contented us, it is well to have as many people 
as possible know what they are doing, even though what they 
are doing happens to be a mean and dirty job. Most jobs are 
like that in our society, if that is any comfort. 


Pete Sykes is the American University's great gift to ad- 


vertising, and perhaps the most typical advertising man I 

In both the smaller and larger American colleges and uni- 
versities, during the period just before the war, the mind- 
set of the average bright young man was determined by the 
time he became a sophomore. Pete was above the average as 
to energy and charm, but in all other respects he was the 
perfect stereotype of the extraverted, emulative, career man 
in his undergraduate phase. 

He had some literary talent and made the staff of the col- 
lege newspaper. He had some executive ability and became 
assistant manager of the football team. He was personable, 
his family was good enough, and he made one of the snootiest 
fraternities. All this happened during his first two years. As 
to his studies: in a moment of confidence he once confessed 
to me that he could make nothing of Professor Ely's eco- 
nomics, although he had studied hard in that course. He had 
determined to make a million dollars after graduating, and 
he had been given to understand that economics was the 
science of making a million dollars. 

When Pete made this confession he was the managing head 
of a large Middle Western agency. Although then only in his 
early forties he had already made about half that million 
dollars. Without benefit of Ely, however. I tried to explain. 
I cited the correspondence of a radical editor with an engineer, 
exiled in Alaska, whose grown sons were in college in Seattle 
and also studying Ely. The engineer became curious and read 
Ely himself. He wrote: "I think Professor Ely should have 
married Mary Baker Eddy, for they are manifestly agreed as 
to the non-existence of matter. And if they had married, I 
am confident that their child would have been a bubble." 

Pete laughed and asked me what book he could read that 
did make sense. I suggested Thorstein Veblen's Theory of 
Business Enterprise. Fine! After lunch he stepped into a book 
store and ordered the book; also a new detective novel. 


I wasn't horsing Pete. He was and is a good fellow, with 
enough salt in his nature to make him worth taking seriously, 
which is more than can be said for most advertising men. 
After graduating he had been a newspaper reporter, and he 
understood the surfaces of American life very well. He was 
tolerant, too, if realistic. A year later he fired a friend of mine 
on the ground that my friend's insistence on giving no more 
than half time to the "business nobody knows" implied a lack 
of unmitigated devotion to his profession, although in all 
other respects he was o.k. My friend thought his point well 
taken and departed gracefully. 

Pete had to fire over a third of his staff as the depression 
deepened, and it bothered him. The civilization had put him 
on the spot, and it wasn't fair, because he was still only a 
bright sophomore. His ambition, his emulative obligation to 
himself, to his parents, to his classmates, and later to a grow- 
ing family, had never permitted him to achieve the intellec- 
tual maturity which he secretly craved. What was he to do 
with these stock-market-ruined surplus executives, these 
debt-burdened copy writers Smith's wife was going to have 
a baby, Robinson had tuberculosis, etc., etc. Pete stalled, com- 
promised, whittled, made private unadvertised loans out of 
his own pocket, and in the end had to fire most of them any- 

Pete fought hard. To hold the business. To get new busi- 
ness. But he was on the spot there, too. Pete was ethical, a 
power for "truth in advertising," and as sincere about it as 
practical business considerations would permit. His agency 
turned out quantities of bunk, of course. But respectable 
bunk. No bought-and-paid-for testimonials. None of the 
gaudier and dirtier patent medicine accounts. His fastidious- 
ness cost him money and work. He had to prove that it was 
possible to match the achievements of the testimonial adver- 
tisers by using other, more ethical advertising methods. It 
wasn't easy, and sometimes the ethical distinction between 


Pete's methods and those of the testimonial racketeers seemed 
a bit tenuous. Particularly now that the depression had forced 
advertisers to become increasingly hard-boiled. 

So Pete wasn't happy. He had worked terribly hard all his 
life. He was moral. He had even cut out liquor so that he 
could work harder. After failing and succeeding, failing and 
succeeding, half a dozen times, that million dollars which he 
desired with such nai've emotional abandon was, in 1929, 
almost within his grasp. But the stock market crash had 
postponed the realization of that ambition indefinitely. And 
now the iron collar of economics Ely's, Veblen's, some- 
body's economics was not only choking him, driving down 
his standard of living, brushing aside his pecuniary ambitions, 
but forcing him to be an advertising faker, a slave driver, a 
hard-boiled executant of decisions written in red ink and 
passed by vote of his board of directors. 

It wasn't fair and Pete suffered. There he was, grimacing 
like the gargoyle outside his skyscraper office, chilled by the 
winds of panic that swept the country, watching the waters 
of prosperity recede, taking with them first his profits, and 
now threatening the very continuance of his profession. A 
tough spot. Out on the end of a limb. The buzz of the Brain 
Trust in Washington worried him. Would they saw off the 
limb on which he was sitting? But that would be outrageous! 
He was a hard, competent worker. And a good fellow. He 
had fought like hell in behalf of his employees. He had re- 
sisted the onslaughts of the advertising vandals who were 
destroying reader-confidence. Economics? Damn economics! 
Where did he get off in this beautiful American economic 
scheme of things? And when would he get a little sleep? 

You can see how hard it is to find effigies to burn, bad men 
to drive out of office. I don't blame Pete. I blame the Ameri- 
can university for spawning so many sophomores, telling 
them that advertising was a respectable career for an honest, 
intelligent person, and then walking out on them as soon as 


the depression proved that the reverend professors of "eco- 
nomics" were just as imbecile as any village socialist had al- 
ways said they were. . . . No, it's no use blaming the uni- 
versity either. Let's blame Alexander Hamilton a good deal 
and Thomas Jefferson, too. And John Calvin. And Daniel 
Shays for not being as good a revolutionary engineer as 
Lenin. . . . 

I guess that let's Pete out. If I were Commissar in a Soviet 
America and I can think of few people less competent for 
the job I should want Pete at a desk around the corner. 
I'd have to watch him for a while because he has a consider- 
able will-to-power. But he's a good fellow, and, given some- 
thing serious to do, a good workman. The depression has 
matured him. He isn't a sophomore any more. But there he 
is, holding the bag for a staff of two hundred people, under- 
paying them and overworking them because he has to, and 
occasionally obliged, for business reasons, to strike those 
^ophomoric attitudes he no longer believes in. Pete is still 
one of the Kings of Bedlam. I think some nights he prays 
for a revolution. 


A few years ago there came into an agency where I was 
working a tall Westerner who had got himself a job in the 
publicity department. (Yes, advertising agencies have pub- 
licity departments. They are quite legitimate, although the 
newspapers don't like them much.) 

His name was call him Buck McMaster. He looked like a 
cowboy and had been one in his youth in Oklahoma. He was 
a competent, facile newspaperman and likable. The job paid 
more than most newspaper jobs and it was easy. The smaller 
newspapers had to like the stuff and even the desk men on 
the big ones were trained to say maybe, without meaning 
maybe. The stuff had to tie up with the news, of course, and 


it had to be competently written. But Big Business is news, 
and that agency was doing jobs for Big Business. It was pap for 
Buck, even though they loaded his desk with plenty of as- 

He was happy as a lark at first. But within a couple of 
weeks that cowboy was riding high and grabbing for the 
carriage of his typewriter. Looking through the glass of my 
cubicle I could see him, scowling. And from time to time 
I would hear him rip spoiled drafts out of his machine and 
crunch them into the waste basket. 

"Jesus Christ," he would bleat. "Holy Mother, what next?" 

At that time some of my signed writings were appearing 
in radical magazines. He must have read something of mine 
and decided I was safe. 

Late one afternoon he came into my cubicle and sat down. 

"I'm going gaga," he said. "This stuff is terrible. Do you 
mind telling me " he leaned forward and whispered "is 
this a racket, too?" 

I was startled. Newspapermen are supposed to be hard- 
boiled. And this one was an ex-cowboy to boot, who looked 
tough enough for anything. 

"Do you mind telling me," I asked, "What was your last 

"Sure," he said. "I was publicity man for ." He named 

one of the most salacious of the Broadway producers. "It 
was a lousy job you know, cheap and nasty. I'd heard about 
the advertising business and decided to get into something 

He seemed hurt when I laughed. 

"Well," he said morosely. "Then I guess it's back to the 
bright lights for me. I suppose you don't happen to know of 
anything in this town a man can do and keep his self-respect?" 

Buck got out finally by writing cheap fiction for the pulps. 
He was and is a lot better than that. He has written honest, 
sensitive fiction stories which he hasn't been able to sell. So 


he writes more pulp fiction and is forever spoiling his busi- 
ness by writing it too well. He lives in the country now, 
and has got himself elected justice of the peace in his town- 
ship. He's an honest judge, although he tells me the local 
political pressures are considerable. He has a considerable 
local reputation among the young people. When a couple 
arrives at his house, wanting to get married, he first strives 
earnestly to dissuade them. If he is over-ruled, he then leads 
them to an idyllic spot beside a brook and reads them the 
Song of Solomon. Finally, he refuses to accept a fee. 


There is a very scared man huddled back of his desk in a 
big Western agency. He is one of the most gifted literary 
craftsmen I know. He is something of a sophisticate, and I 
am confident has never believed a word of the millions of 
words of advertising copy he must have written. But he 
rarely says anything like that, even when drunk. 

He is very scared. He is in his late fifties now, and has six 
children. He is very eminent and successful, but he is scared 
just the same. As the depression deepened, he saw to it that 
the people in his department who stayed could be counted 
upon to protect his job. Just before the bank holiday he put 
ten thousand dollars in gold coins in his safe deposit box. 
Every now and then he would go in and make sure that the 
gold was still there. 

Mr. Gentroy. The brilliant Gentroy. Once he had literary 
ambitions. But he was scared. And he is old now. A little of 
his light red hair is still left. His face is red, too. When you 
ask him something he never commits himself. And when you 
listen to him, you wonder who or what is speaking. 

There was something there once. A person. Possibly an 
artist. It is gone now. For years he has been .following Mr. 
Goode's prescription: he has been turning people into gold. 


Now he is gold himself. Pure gold. Only occasionally, when 
he is drunk, does a small bubble of laughter or anger rise to 
the surface. The refining process is never quite complete. 
But Gentroy, because he was so scared, has carried it farther 
than most. Gold. Pure gold. 


Bodfish had asked the doctor about liquor, and the doctor 
had shrugged. Bodfish had a leaky heart the diagnosis was 
positive on that point. Yet when Bodfish had asked him 
about liquor, the very Jewish, very eminent and very expen- 
sive diagnostician had looked out of the window, lowered 
his Oriental eyelids, and shrugged. 

So Bodfish had gone directly from the doctor's office to the 
speakeasy. In half an hour he was jolly. An hour later the 
Good Kid came in and told him cheerfully that he was tight. 
He hadn't felt tight. On the contrary, he felt himself to be 
the center of an immense, serene and sober clarity. The ex- 
perience was not unknown to him. The creative moment. It 
was his ability to experience such moments that made him a 
great advertising man. He had felt this way the night he had 
thought of the Blisterine idea, which had revolutionized the 
advertising of proprietary medicines. A sense of power, of 
marching analysis, of kaleidoscopic syllogisms resolving into 
simple, original and utterly right conclusions. 

The sensation was similar, but this time his relaxed, ath- 
letic mind was exploring strange territory. Himself. His life. 
The curious, strained, phantasmagoric pattern of his days. 

There was something he had wanted to tell the Good Kid, 
but she wouldn't listen. He had^ felt a beautiful, paternal 
pity for the Good Kid. It wasn't her fault, he had tried to 
tell her. It wasn't his fault, either. They were both victims. 
As he said it, he had put forth a hand, the wrist hairy, the 
flesh around the knuckles showing the first withering of age, 

and attempted to lay it upon her brow in a gesture of chaste 

The Good Kid had laughed at him. "You're drunk, B. J." 
she had assured him briskly. And a little later she had gone 
off with the art director, leaving him alone in the speakeasy 
in a corner facing the mirror. 

The lamps of the speakeasy were heavily shaded. But there 
was light the mood of revelation persisted. It was as if his 
flashing mind played against the mirror, and in that clear 
illumination the face of Bodfish stared out at him in sharp 
relief. There were two Bodfishes now. There was Bodfish, the 
ad-man, posing, gesticulating in the mirror. And there was a 
new, masterful, illuminated Bodfish who smiled sardonically, 
fingered his cigar, and continued the inquisition of that 
Mephistophelian physician. 

"Do you want the truth?" the physician had asked, and 
Bodfish had said he did. 

Now, with the patient caught in the relentless reflection of 
the mirror, Bodfish repeated the question. 

"Do you want the truth?" 

The lips in the mirror smiled. The head nodded. Yes, it 
was to be the truth. 

"Your posture is bad, Bodfish. Stand up!" 

Bodfish stood up. 

"Your nose is six inches ahead of your body. You're ahead 
of yourself." 

The face in the mirror smiled deprecatingly. Bodfish's as- 
sociates had frequently made that flattering complaint. Bod- 
fish was too bright. He thought too fast. His mind was so 
active that 

"Nonsense, Bodfish. I doubt very much that you have 
ever in your life experienced the discipline of honest thought. 
That head and shoulder posture what does it remind you 

The face in the mirror smirked. 


"A hawk? Really, if I am to do anything for you, well 
have to dispense with a few of these bizarre illusions. There 
are hawks in your business, but not many of them. As it 
happens a number of my patients are advertising men. Most 
of them are like yourself. Have you ever watched a mechan- 
ical rabbit run around a race track pursued by whippets?" 

The doctor hadn't said that not quite. But being some- 
thing of a histrion, as well as a good deal of a masochist, Bod- 
fish enjoyed exaggerating and refining the cruelties of the 

"Posture, Bodfish, is not merely a physical thing. Yours is 
a moral, a spiritual disequilibrium. Moreover, you embody, 
in your own psychic and physiological predicament, the 
dilemma of the civilization. Its acquisitive nose is ahead of 
its economic body. It is wobbling, stumbling, about to fall 
on its face. Throw your chin in, Bodfish. Think! Do you 
remember when you first got into the advertising business?" 

Bodfish remembered. 

"You were an average youth, Bodfish; perhaps a little more 
sensitive than the average, and with a frail talent for writ- 
ing not much, but a little. You had an idea of yourself. It 
was that idea that held you together that kept your shoul- 
ders back and your chin in. Posture, Bodfish, is largely a mat- 
ter of taking thought. You thought a good deal of yourself 
in those days. Everything that happened to you mattered. It 
mattered to the degree that it affected, favorably or unfavor- 
ably, your idea of yourself. Tell me, Bodfish, in those days 
did you think of yourself as a charlatan, a cheat and a liar? 
Did you think of yourself as a commissioned maker and 
wholesaler of half-truths of outright deceptions; a degraded 
clown costumed in the burlesque tatters of fake science, fake 
art, and fake education, leering, cozening, bullying the crowd 
into an obscene tent show that you don't even own yourself 
that by this time nobody owns?" 


The reflected face became distorted as Bodfish advanced 
upon the mirror. 

"Answer me, Bodfish! You wanted me to explain to you 
why you've got a leaky heart, why your back hurts so you 
can't sleep, why none of your office wives takes you seriously 
not after the first week anyway. The answer is that you've 
not only lost the idea of a society you've lost the idea of 
yourself. It's silly to speak to you as a sick person. As a per- 
son you've practically ceased to exist. Long ago you stuffed 
yourself into the waste paper basket along with all the other 
refuse of your dismal trade. You went down the freight 
elevator in a big bale, back to the pulp mill. What's left is 
make-believe. Why, you need three gin fizzes before you can 
even take yourself seriously. You flap and rattle like a pre- 
war tin lizzie. And you come to me for repairs! Tell me, 
Bodfish, why should any intelligent man waste his time re- 
habilitating you? Why, you're as obsolete as a Silurian liz- 
ard! ... Be sensible, Bodfish, have a drink." 

Bodfish had a drink. 

"To your great profession, Bodfish! To your billion dollar 
essential industry! Fill up, Bodfish!" 

Bodfish filled his glass. 

"To your historic mission, Bodfish, the rednctio ad ab- 
surdum of a whole era. Drink, Bodfish!" 

Bodfish drank. 

"To the 40,000 ewe lambs of American advertising, who, 
as the crisis deepened, poured out their last full measure of 
devotion on the altar of business as usual. To the vicarious 
sacrifice which history exacts of the knave, the weakling, and 
the fantast. Drink, Bodfish!" 

At three o'clock in the morning the push-broom of the 
negro roustabout encountered an obstruction under the table 
next the mirror. 

"Mistah Tony!" 


The proprietor wiped the last glass, placed it carefully on 
the shelf, and leisurely emerged from behind the bar. 

"Get Joe and put him in the back room," instructed the 
proprietor briefly. 

His partner, the ex-chorus girl, returned from padlocking 
the front door. 

"They tell me he's lost the Universal Founders account." 

"Yes. His gal friend's quitting told me so this evening." 

The proprietor frowned, opened the cash drawer and ex- 
amined a check. 

"Better take him off the list, Clara." 

It was late afternoon of the next day before Bodfish awoke. 

He lay quietly staring at the painting of Lake Como on the 
opposite wall. Then he closed his eyes. There was something 
he wanted to remember something that had happened in 
the night. What was it? Oh, yes, posture! That was the word, 
posture. Marvellous. A big idea. Never been used in advertis- 
ing before. Nine out of ten have posture defects. 

Sitting up in bed he extracted pencil and an envelope and 
made hasty notes. That was it. A cinch. That Universal 
Founders' account wasn't lost. Not by a damn sight. 

He rose, scrubbed briefly at the dirty sink, and inspected 
himself in the mirror. Eyes clear. Face rested. Cured! 

Great thing, posture. What the doctor ordered. 

Bodfish straightened himself. That's it. Head up. Chin in. 




Advertising and the Depression 

THE evolution of the American salesman hero, climaxed by 
Mr. Barton's deification of the salesman-advertising man in 
The Man Nobody Knows was rudely interrupted by the stock 
market crash in 1929. During the depression years Mr. Bar- 
ton's syndicated sermonettes struck more and more frequently 
the note of Christian humility. It was an appropriate atti- 
tude. For as the depression deepened it became apparent that 
the ad-man could not carry the burden of his own inflated 
apparatus, let alone break down the sales-resistance of the 
breadlines and sell us all back to prosperity. 

The ad-man tried. It is pitiful to recall those recurrent 
mobilizations of the forces of advertising, designed to exor- 
cize the specter of a "psychological depression": the infantile 
slogans, "Forward America!" "Don't Sell America Short!"; 
finally, the campaign of President Hoover's Organization on 
Unemployment Relief, to which the publications contributed 
free space and the advertising agencies free copy. 

One of these advertisements, which appeared in the Sat- 
urday Evening Post issue of Oct. 24, 1931, is headed "I'll see 
it through if you will." It is signed in type "Unemployed, 
1931," and the presumptive speaker is shown in the illustra- 
tion: a healthy, well-fed workman, smiling and tightening 
his belt. The staggering effrontery of these frightened ad-men 
in presuming to speak for the unemployed workers of America 
can scarcely be characterized in temperate language. This 

campaign signed by Walter S. Gifford, president of the 
American Telephone and Telegraph Company, which was at 
the same time paying dividends at the expense of the thou- 
sands of workers which it had discharged and continued to 
discharge, and by Owen D. Young, chairman of the Com- 
mittee on Organization of Relief Resources, was designed to 
kill two birds with one stone: first, to wheedle money out of 
the middle classes, and second, to persuade the unemployed 
to suffer stoically and not question the economic, social and 
ethical assumptions on which our acquisitive society is based 
and out of which the eminent gentlemen who sponsored 
the campaign were making money. The particular adver- 
tisement already referred to understated the volume of un- 
employment about a third, and then the ineffable ad-man, 
speaking through the masque of the tailor's dummy work- 
man said, "I know that's not your fault, any more than it is 

It didn't work. The rich gave absurdly little. And the sales 
of advertised products continued to drop despite the pleading, 
bullying, snarling editorials printed by the women's maga- 
zines at the urgency of the business offices which saw their 
advertising income dropping and their "books" becoming 
every week and every month more svelte and undernourished. 

Nothing worked, and pretty soon the ad-men had so much 
to do, what with the necessary firing and retrenchment that 
went on in the agencies and publications, that they no longer 
even pretended that they could make America safe for 
Hoover by advertising us out of the depression. The worst of 
it was that the general public, and even the advertisers quite 
evidently didn't give a whoop about the advertising business 
that is to say, the publisher-broadcaster-agency structure. 
Thousands of ad-men were out of work and the heartless 
vaudevillians of Broadway sat up nights thinking up cracks 
about this unregretted circumstance. 

The doctors, the architects, the engineers, even the lawyers 


were able to command some public sympathy. But although 
from 1929 on the consumer got less and less advertising 
guidance, stimulus and education, it was apparent that any- 
body who had the money had no difficulty in buying what- 
ever he wanted to buy. So that when apprised of the sad 
plight of the ad-men, the unsympathetic layman was likely 
to couple them with the bankers and remark in Broadway 
parlance, "And so what?" 

And so the evil days came, and the profession had no pleas- 
ure in them. And the priests of the temple of advertising went 
about the streets in snappy suits and tattered underwear. And 
when they read their Printers' Ink in the public library they 
encountered some very saddening statistical trends. 

The Advertising Record Company uses a check list of 89 
magazines and gives dollar values, which increased from 
$190,817,540 in 1927 to $203,776,077 in 1929. By 1932 the 
magazine lineage had dropped to $16,239,587 and the dollar 
value to $115,342,606. Partial figures for 1933 are provided 
by Advertising and Selling. They show magazine lineage to 
be about 29 per cent under the 1932 figures for the first six 
months of 1933. In July the descending curve began to 
flatten, so that, what with beer and the NRA the September 
lineage is only minus 5.88 per cent as against September, 
1932 incidentally a reversal of the usual seasonal trend. 

The curve of national advertising in newspapers behaves 
similarly. Starting with a dollar value of $220,000,000 in 
1925, it reaches a 1929 peak of $260,000,000. Then it drops 
to $230,000,000 in 1930, $205,000,000 in 1931, and $160,- 
000,000 in 1932. The drop continued in the early months 
of 1933, but the recovery came sooner and has gone higher; 
August newspaper advertising was 23.65 per cent above the 
same month of the preceding year. 

As might be expected, agriculture is the sore spot of the 
advertising economy as it is of the economy in general. The 
Advertising Record Company's figures show a slightly earlier 


incidence of distress in this quarter. National advertising in 
national farm publications faltered from $11,092,342 in 1929 
to $10,327,956 in 1930, dropped suddenly to $7,775,415 in 

1931, and slumped hopelessly in 1932 to $4,921,514. 
Radio advertising is unique in that it shows a continuous 

upward trend during the depression years up to 1933. The 
combined figures of the two major chain systems, National 
and Columbia, show an increase of broadcasting expenditures 
by national advertisers from $18,729,571 in 1929 to $39,- 
106,776 in 1932. But by April of this year radio advertising 
was 42.71 per cent under the total for the same month of 

1932. A reversal of this trend is indicated by the August 
total which is off only 16.53 per cent as against August, 1932. 
In spite of their increased income during the depression, how- 
ever, the Wonder Boys of radio have managed somehow to 
stay in the red NBC, for example, has yet to pay a dividend 
to its common stockholders. 

So much for the statistical records of the advertising in- 
dustry. The summary is incomplete since it does not include 
the trade press, car-cards, outdoor advertising and direct ad- 
vertising. The trends, however, have been similar. 

The human records during these years of the locust have 
been even more depressing. Certainly, the Golden Bowl of 
advertising is not broken. But it has been badly cracked, and 
through that crack has leaked at least half of the 1929 per- 
sonnel of the profession and, probably, a bit more than half 
of the profession's 1929 income. This is merely a rough esti- 
mate, since no reliable figures are available. The writer is in- 
debted to a leading employment agency in the field for the 
estimates here given. They are based on considerable evi- 
dence plus the best judgment of an informed observer. 

Advertising salaries were, of course, preposterously inflated 
during the late New Era. A good run of the mill copy writer 
got $150 a week, whereas a newspaper reporter of equal 
competence would be lucky to get $50 a week. Practically 


any competent artist could choose between starving to death 
painting good pictures and making from $10,000 to $50,000 
a year painting portraits of branded spinach, pineapple, 
cheese, etc., so realistic that the publications in which they 
were reproduced had to be kept on ice in order to arrest the 
normal processes of nature. (The writer admits that the 
artists were not solely to blame for this interesting phenom- 
enom. ) 

The push-button boys, the high-power advertising execu- 
tives, the star agency business getters and publication space 
salesmen all these were similarly inflated as to salaries, and 
as to their conviction of their own importance. Executive 
salaries of $25,000 and $30,000 were common in 1929, and 
there were even a few $50,000 a year men, not counting the 
agency owners. Research directors and merchandizing ex- 
perts had also begun to come in on the big money. In some 
of the larger agencies, an owlish, ex-academic or pseudo- 
academic type was in great demand as a front for the more 
important clients. These queer birds got from $12,000 to 
$40,000 a year. They specialized in the higher realms of the 
advertising make-believe, being as statistical, psychological, 
economico-psychological, statistical-sociological as Polonius 
himself. Since there was indeed something rotten in Den- 
mark, and advertising was distinctly a part of that something, 
they, too, were pierced by the sword of the depression and 
fell squealing behind the arras. 

Eheu! Those were the happy days! Where are they now, 
those Pushers of the Purple Pen, those pent-housed and 
limousined "artists," those academic prime ministers in their 
modern dress of double-breasted serge, those industrial stylists 
and package designers, those stern, efficient, young-old, but- 
ton-pushing High Priests of the Gospel of Advertising? 

A few, who didn't get caught in the stock market, are 
sitting and drinking in Majorca, waiting for the waters to 
subside and the peak of the advertising Ararat to reappear. 


Some are doing subsistence farming in Vermont and else- 
where, with perhaps a hot dog stand as a side line. 

Some of them are on the receiving end of the formula of 
salesmen-exploitation which many companies have adopted 
as a means of conquering the rigors of the depression. You 
use your own car and your own gas trying to sell a new 
gadget in a territory infested by other salesmen for the same 
gadget. In two months you have sold two gadgets and your 
commissions amount to $58.75. Your business expense for the 
same period amounts to $79.85. That proves you're a poor 

Some of the savants are back in the fresh-water colleges 
teaching the same old stuff about scientific merchandizing to 
the Young Idea, from whom they carefully conceal what's 
happened, assuming that they know what's happened, which 
is doubtful. 

A former copy writer of my acquaintance became busi- 
ness manager of a radical monthly, on a theoretical salary. 
Another has gone to California, where Life is Better, and the 
climate more suitable for practicing his former craft of com- 
mercial fiction. He wasn't fired, by the way. It was merely 
that he found he had no aptitude for the brass-knuckled 
rough and tumble of current advertising practice. 

One hears that some of the unemployed poets in advertis- 
ing are writing poetry and that some of the unemployed 
novelists in advertising are writing novels. Perhaps that is one 
explanation for the increased tonnage of manuscripts by 
which editors, publishers and literary agents have been in- 

For the so-called "creative" workers in advertising, the 
adjustment has perhaps been a little easier than for the 
executives, "contact men," space salesmen, etc. A relief ad- 
ministrator told the writer about an advertising man who 
had presented a difficult problem to her organization. He 
needed money to feed his family, but he wouldn't surrender 


his respectable address just off Park Avenue. He still hoped 
to get back into the running, had a hundred "leads" and 
schemes. Meanwhile, he must look prosperous, since an in- 
digent, unsuccessful advertising man is a contradiction in 

Many of the agencies started firing and cutting right after 
the stock market crash. By the fall of 1930 wholesale dis- 
charges were frequent. During the past year the havoc has 
been appalling. Agencies that formerly employed six hundred 
people are operating with about half that number. In the 
smaller agencies the staffs have been reduced from 150 to 30, 
from 30 to 8, from 16 to 4. Salaries have been cut again and 
again. In some agencies there have been as many as four suc- 
cessive cuts. They have hit the higher and middle brackets 
hardest particularly the "creative'* staffs. The employment 
agent already referred to has recently placed copy writers at 
$50 and $70 a week who in 1929 were getting $10,000 and 
$14,000 a year. Secretaries and stenographers have dropped 
from $40 and $303 week to $18 and $15. In the entire agency 
field there are perhaps a handful that have refrained from 
cutting salaries or have restored cuts when business improved 
for that particular agency. 

Mergers have been numerous during the depression. The 
earlier trend toward concentration of the business in the 
hands of a comparatively few large agencies has been ac- 
celerated. In the process many well-known names have dis- 
appeared from the agency roster. 

As to the effect of the weeding-out process on the quality 
of the residual agency staffs, it may be said that a percentage 
of sheer incompetents has been dropped; that a percentage of 
incompetents has been retained because through social or 
financial connections they controlled the placing of valuable 
business; that in general, the trend has been toward a more 
rigorous "industrialization" of the business, with a lower aver- 
age wage scale, and a progressive narrowing of responsibility. 


The residual ad-men tend to be or at least to act hard-boiled. 
They do what they are told, and they are told to get and 
hold the business by any available means. 

Competitive business is war. Advertising is a means by 
which one business competes against another business in the 
same field, or against all business for a larger share of the con- 
sumer's dollar. The World War lasted four years. The de- 
pression has lasted four years. You would expect that adver- 
tising would become ethically worse under the increasing 
stress of competition, and precisely that trend has been clearly 
observable. But, as already pointed out, ethical value judg- 
ments are inapplicable under the circumstances. Good adver- 
tising is advertising which promotes the sale of a maximum of 
goods or services at a maximum profit for a minimum ex- 
pense. Bad advertising is advertising that doesn't sell or costs 
too much. 

Judged by these criteria, and they are the only perma- 
nently operative criteria, good advertising is testimonial 
advertising, mendacious advertising, fear-and-emulation ad- 
vertising, tabloid balloon -technique advertising, effective 
advertising which enables the advertiser to pay dividends to 
the widows and orphans who have invested their all in the 
stocks of the company. It is precisely this kind of advertis- 
ing that has increased and flourished during the depression 
this kind and another kind, namely, price-advertising, which 
advertising men, including that ad-man at large, General 
Hugh S. Johnson, view with great alarm. This brings us to a 
consideration of various confused and conflicting aspects of 
the New Deal which serve excellently to document the previ- 
ously set forth contentions of the writer concerning the 
nature of the advertising business, its systematized make- 
believe, and its strategic position in the capitalist economy. 





The Ad-Man on the Job 

WHEN President Roosevelt succeeded to the politically bank- 
rupt Hoover Administration, it was necessary not merely to 
legislate a New Deal but to sell this New Deal to the Ameri- 
can People. Tribute has already been paid to the President's 
extraordinary persuasiveness in his radio addresses. It was 
natural that he should choose as his first lieutenant a high- 
powered sales executive, General Hugh S. Johnson, who be- 
came Director of the NRA. 

The theory of the recovery, as outlined in the pronounce- 
ments of the President, was to raise prices and wages, eliminate 
cut-throat price competition, and thereby restore the solvency 
of the whole capitalist fabric of production and distribution 
for profit. One of the businesses that had to be rehabilitated 
was the advertising business. 

Speaking before the convention of the Advertising Federa- 
tion of America held at Grand Rapids in June, 1933, Gen- 
eral Johnson said in part: 

Good advertising will become more essential than ever. It will 
be in a position to help the business executive avoid those wasteful 
and expensive practices in selling which so often add needless 
costs to needed products. Good advertising is opposed to senseless 
price cutting and to unfair competition. These are two business 
evils which we hope to reduce under the new plan of business 


Constructive selling competition will be as strong as ever, and 
there will be great need for aggressive sales and advertising efforts. 
The only kind of competition that is going to be lessened is the 
destructive cut-throat kind of competition which harms the in- 
dustry and the public as well. There should be more competition 
than ever in presenting quality products to consumers, and in 
selling those products. What we are going to need more than ever 
is energetic, honest efforts to sell goods to people who are going 
to use them. . . . 

If there is one job for advertising men and women to carry 
through at this moment, it is to study the implications and effects 
of the industrial recovery act and then to apply their skill in assist- 
ing business to gain fully from the planned results of the law. 

When General Johnson addressed the Advertising Federa- 
tion of America, he was speaking to the responsible heads of 
the advertising business, including the owners and managers 
of major publishing properties. Certainly these gentlemen real- 
ized very clearly that if any deliberate deflation of advertis- 
ing were included in the plans of the administration, it would 
mean their bankruptcy. General Johnson understood this as 
well as they did. He also must have realized acutely that the 
administration could not afford to do anything of the sort, 
since it is highly dependent upon press and radio support for 
the execution of its program even for its continuance in 
office. Hence, the wings of the Blue Eagle were spread be- 
nignly over one of the most fantastically exploitative and 
non-functional businesses in our whole acquisitive economy. 
With this qualification, of course: "Good advertising will be- 
come more essential than ever . . . Good advertising is op- 
posed to senseless price cutting and to unfair competition." 

General Johnson knew his press and knew his politics. As 
a patriotic savior of capitalism he was convinced that the 
advertising business was one egg that couldn't be broken 
even to make the omelet of the New Deal. But it was impos- 
sible to keep the recovery program pure, even if the President 


had wanted to. Reform was bound to creep in. The invest- 
ment bankers got it first in the Securities Act. And eventually 
that advertising egg did get cracked, or at least candled. It 
turned out to be Grade "C" or worse. 

It was Professor Rexford J. Tugwell, Assistant Secretary of 
Agriculture, who started all the trouble by insisting that the 
Recovery Program should include passage of a New Pure 
Food and Drugs Bill, designed to protect the health and the 
pocketbook of the consumer. At this writing this bill, as re- 
vised by Senator Copeland, under pressure from the proprie- 
tary medicine, drug, food and advertising interests, is still be- 
ing fought by these interests although most of its original 
teeth have been pulled. By the time this book is published it 
seems probable that the revised bill or a substitute measure 
will have been passed. Since the purpose of this book is not to 
analyze the legislative and other developments incident to the 
New Deal but to describe the advertising business, considered 
as an instrument of rule controlled and manipulated by the 
American business hierarchy, we shall be content in the next 
chapter with showing how and why the vitamin men, the 
medicine men and especially the ad-men were successful in 
beating the Tugwell Bill. The story is told in detail in the 
500 page transcript of the hearings on S. B. 1944, otherwise 
known as the Tugwell-Copeland Food and Drugs Bill, held 
in Washington, Dec. 7 and 8, 1933. It is one of the most 
fascinating and revealing documents the Government Print- 
ing Office has ever issued. Reading it is a sobering experience, 
even though Moliere himself could scarcely have conceived 
the rich comedy of the situation. What emerges is a cross- 
section of the American pseudoculture. Benjamin Franklin, 
Jay Cooke, Henry Ward Beecher and Elbert Hubbard were 
all there in spirit, represented by slightly burlesqued re- 
incarnations in the bodies of statesmen, lawyer-lobbyists, 
medicine men and ad-men. Bruce Barton didn't appear at the 
hearings, but did his bit in the field by speaking against the 


bill. Dr. Walter G. Campbell, Chief of the Food and Drug 
Administration, did an altogether magnificent job in explain- 
ing the need for the bill so that by the time he had finished 
the assembled lobbyists didn't have a leg to stand on. They 
did, however, have plenty of money and an effective influence 
upon the daily and periodical press. In the Sept. 18, 1933, issue 
of the Drug Trade News appeared the following frank state- 
ment of the strategy and tactics of the United Manufacturers 
of Proprietary Medicines, as generalissimoed by lawyer-lobby- 
ist Clinton Robb. 

The 17 Plans 

1. Increase the membership of association at once to present a 
united front in combating the measure. 

2. Secure co-operation of newspapers in spreading favorable pub- 
licity, particularly papers now carrying advertising for members of 
the association. 

3. Enlisting all manufacturers and wholesalers, including those 
allied to the trade, and inducing them to place the facts before 
their customers through salesmen, and in all other possible ways, to 
secure their co-operative aid. 

4. Secure the pledge of manufacturers, wholesalers, advertising 
agencies and all other interested affiliates to address letters to Sena- 
tors to secure their promise to vote against the measure. 

5. Line up with other organizations, such as Drug Institute, 
Proprietary Association, National Association of Retail Druggists 
and others, to make a mass attack on bill. 

6. Appointment by the President of a committee to work in 
conjunction with Attorney Clinton Robb. 

7. Co-operation of every member in forwarding to headquarters 
newspaper clippings and all available data as basis for bulletins and 
favorable publicity. 

8. Co-operation of every member in doing missionary work in 
home districts to arouse public to the dangers of the legislation 


<?. Carrying to the public by every means available, radio, news- 
paper, mail and personal contact, the alarming fact that if the bill 
is adopted, the public will be deprived of the right of self -diagnosis 
and self -medication, and would be compelled to secure a physician's 
prescription for many simple needs. 

10. Arrange for conferences between Association Committee and 
representatives of all other trade associations interested. 

11. Enlist the help of carton, tube, bottle and box manufac- 

12. Defeat use of ridicule by American Medical Association, pro- 
ponents of the measure, by replying with ridicule. 

13. Convince newspapers of justness of cause and educate public 
to same effect. 

14. Setting up publicity department for dissemination of infor- 

15. Enlisting aid of Better Business Bureau in various cities. 

1 6. Direct and constant contact with situation at Washington 
under leadership of Attorney Robb. 

17. Pledge of 100 per cent co-operation on part of every mem- 
ber of the association present for continued and unremitting activ- 
ity in every possible direction to defeat measure. 

Note plan No. 15, the mobilizing of the Better Business 
Bureaus, which are agencies set up by the organized adver- 
tising business to expose and penalize dishonest and misleading 
advertisers. We cannot stop here to trace the history of the 
Better Business Bureau, except to point out that its criteria 
of "Truth in Advertising" are the commercial criteria al- 
ready discussed in an earlier chapter; further, that even these 
criteria cannot be applied to the disciplining of important 
advertisers or powerful advertising agencies. The internal 
politics of the advertising business is realpolitik. The Better 
Business Bureau can point with pride to the scalps of numer- 
ous "blue-sky" stock promoters and cheap and nasty patent 
medicine racketeers whom it has put out of business. But in 
the nature of the case it cannot successfully hunt bigger game, 


indeed it is not designed for this purpose. It is essentially a 
"Goose Girl" organization which is concerned with the main- 
tenance of reader confidence, with keeping the methods and 
practices of the advertising profession within the tolerance 
limit of an essentially exploitative traffic. 

But the Tugwell Bill attacked this traffic at several vital 
points : ( i ) the clause declaring a drug to be misbranded if its 
labeling bears any representation, directly or by ambiguity or 
inference, concerning the effect of such drug, which is con- 
trary to the general agreement of medical opinion; (2) a 
similar clause leveled at false and misleading advertising, 
which provided that the advertisement of the drug or cosmetic 
be considered false "if it is untrue, or by ambiguity or infer- 
ence creates a misleading impression"; (3) the clause au- 
thorizing the Secretary of Agriculture to "promulgate defini- 
tions of identity and standards of quality and fill of con- 
tainer for any food." 

But "ambiguity and inference" is the stock-in-trade of the 
advertising copy writer. And as for quality standards, it is 
the recognized task of advertising to establish systematized 
illusions of quality which will lift the product above the vul- 
gar level of price competition. 

Being thus clearly attacked, it was to be expected that the 
"reform" pretensions of the advertising business would pretty 
much collapse; that the profession would make a more or 
less united front with the patent medicine racketeers, and 
with the drug, food and cosmetic industries; that news- 
papers, magazines and radio stations would either actively 
fight the bill or fail to support it. 

In effect that is what happened, although the more re- 
spectable advertisers and publications were considerably em- 
barrassed by the rough tactics of the patent medicine lobby, 
and certain partial cleavages developed. At its annual conven- 
tion the Association of National Advertisers failed to pass 
resolutions attacking the bill, for the reason, doubtless, that 


those advertisers who were affected slightly if at all by its 
provisions felt that "reader confidence" would indeed be 
somewhat rehabilitated if the patent medicine advertisers, the 
"Feminine Hygiene" advertisers, etc., were obliged to pull 
their punches a little. Advertising and Selling and Editor and 
Publisher attempted to play fair, gave much space to the pro- 
ponents of the bill and stoutly refused to "go along" with 
the campaign of abuse, misrepresentation and press coercion 
laid down in Mr. Robb's "17 Plans." 

To meet this attack Professor Tugwell and the officials of 
the Food and Drug Administration had to rely upon their 
excellent and popular case, upon the support of a handful of 
liberal and radical publications, which carried little or no 
advertising, upon the far from active or organized support 
of the medical profession, and upon the intermittent and 
poorly financed help of a few women's clubs and consumer 
organizations. The Food and Drug Administration had no 
propaganda budget; it did, however, manage to stage its 
famous "Chamber of Horrors" exhibit at the Century of 
Progress and later route this exhibit to women's clubs and 
other organizations which asked for it. This pathetically in- 
adequate attempt to fight back was greeted by yells of rage 
from the patent medicine lobby which was busy spending 
money lavishly in the execution of Mr. Clinton Robb's "17 
Plans." United States Senators began getting letters like the 
following from Mr. Daniel A. Lundy: 

My dear Senator: It would seem, if Section 6 of the Deficiency 
Appropriation Act, for the fiscal year of 1919 and prior year, is 
still active, Walter Campbell may well be dismissed and prosecuted 
for his alleged gross violations and abuse of authority, in spending 
government money without permission of the Congress for radio, 
Paramount News Reel, diversion of his employees' time for selfish 
purposes and other means to influence passage of unconstitutional 
Tugwell-Copeland-Sirowich Food and Drug Bills. 


Walter Campbell, it would seem, has overridden all official pro- 
priety and wisdom in his alleged overt act, and no public trust or 
confidence once violated, as in this case, can be restored. There seems 
but one road for Congress the road in dismissing the Chief of the 
F&D Department, with penalties, if substantiated. 

All others who have aided and abetted in these vicious and ir- 
regular proposals, whether in lending their names or in actions, 
should come under the same discipline. 

Honest industry and a decent public prays for a thorough and 
speedy investigation and not a white-wash of an alleged crime as 
despicable and deplorable as the sell-out of the "Teapot -Dome." 

Mr. Lundy, as might be guessed, is a member of the Board 
of Managers of the United Medicine Manufacturers Associa- 
tion. He is also connected with the Home Drug Company, 
against which the Food and Drug Administration has a case 
pending. But the Senator didn't know this. Nor was the Food 
and Drug Administration empowered to tell him unless he 
specifically asked; it had no means and no power to expose 
one of the most brazen and vicious lobbies that ever dis- 
graced Washington. In the Nation of February 14 the writer 
undertook to expose this lobby and the substance of that 
article, which was entered in the record of the second hearing 
by Mrs. Harvey W. Wiley. 




THERE are no interested, profit-motivated lobbyists at Wash- 
ington; only patriots, crusaders, guardians of our most sacred 
institutions, saviors of humanity. If you doubt this, read the 
transcript of the public hearings held December 7 and 8 in 
Washington on the Tugwell-Copeland Food and Drug Bill. If, 
after that, you are still cynical, you should read the mail the 
President, General Johnson, and Postmaster Farley received 
from the patriotic medicine men, vitamin men, and cosmeti- 
cians whose sole concern appeared to be the welfare of the 
present Administration and the NRA. The names of these 
correspondents cannot be divulged, but here are a few samples 
of their style: 

With yourself and every other loyal citizen of the United States 
endeavoring to assist in the relief of unemployment, it would seem 
that any type of legislation that would retard the recovery of 
business would be unfortunate at this time. Therefore, House Bill 
6 no and the Copeland Bill should be given serious consideration as 
their effect upon an enterprise with an annual output of over 
$2,000,000 would be serious indeed. . . . 

We have no objections to regulation but . . . here is no ordinary 
regulator measure of the industry. Here is a bill known as the 
Tugwell Bill . . . that openly demands that the Secretary of Agri- 
culture in enforcement of regulations be final and absolute and 
without appeal to the courts. . . . Now I'm no disgruntled manu- 


facturer writing you; I'm quite well able to take care of myself 
and have been doing it in this business for many, many years. . . . 

Practically all the worth-while factors in proprietary cosmetic, 
drug, food, and advertising industries are in accord that these Tug- 
well measures are impossible of amendment and should be with- 
drawn. . . . 

I have recently been impressed with the danger to the Adminis- 
tration that is resulting from the agitation created by what is known 
as the Tugwell Bill. . . . 

There are four main points to note about this huge cor- 
respondence, of which only a few typical examples have been 
excerpted: (i) that the names of most of the ready letter- 
writer firms are already familiar through notices of judgment 
issued by trie Food and Drug Administration at the termina- 
tion of cases brought under the present inadequate law, in 
Post Office fraud orders or in the Federal Trade Commission 
cease-and-desist orders; (2) that the writers invoke the prin- 
ciple of "recovery" as opposed to "reform" in order to defend 
businesses which in most cases are demonstrably a danger 
and a burden to both the public health and the public pocket- 
book; (3) that they do not hesitate to misrepresent both the 
nature and effects of the bill, as for example by asserting that 
Administration action would not be subject to court review 
although such review would be easily available to defendants 
under both the original bill and the present revised Copeland 
Bill; (4) that the writers, by implication, threaten the Ad- 
ministration with a political headache and political defeat, 
regardless of the merit of the issues involved. 

The nature and methods of this lobby can best be under- 
stood by examining the following "Who's Who" of the lead- 
ing lobbyists. A complete list is as impossible, as would be any 
attempt to estimate the expenditure, undoubtedly huge, of 
the proprietary drug, food, and advertising lobby. 


Frank (Cascarets) Blair. Mr. Blair represents the Proprie- 
tary Association, the chief fraternal order of the patent-medi- 
cine group, but even closer to his heart, one suspects, is Ster- 
ling Products. This is a holding company for the manufac- 
turers of such products as Fletcher's Castoria, Midol, CaldwelPs 
Syrup and Pepsin, and Cascarets, a chocolate-covered trade 
phenopthalein and cascara laxative recently seized by the Food 
and Drug Administration. The Proprietary Association and 
Mr. Blair, plus the National Drug Conference, backed the 
Black Bill, written by Dr. James H. Beal, chairman of the 
board of trustees of the United States Pharmacopoeia. The 
Black-Beal Bill would further weaken even the present in- 
adequate law, make seizures practically impossible, and per- 
mit nostrum -makers to get away with murder in their 
advertising. In short, it is a sheer fake. 

Hon. Thomas B. (Crazy Crystals) Love. Mr. Love, a former 
Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, is attorney for the Crazy 
Water Company of Mineral Wells, Texas, manufacturers of 
Crazy Crystals, a prominent exhibit last summer in the Food 
and Drug Administration's well-known "Chamber of Hor- 
rors." At the December hearings Mr. Love said, "No harm 
has ever resulted, or is likely to result, from the misrepre- 
sentation of the remedial or therapeutic effect of naturally 
produced mineral waters," which is a brazen enough falsifi- 
cation. Two kinds of harm result from such misrepresenta- 
tion harm to the health of the victim who takes a dose of 
horse physic under the illusion that a dose of salts is good for 
what ails him; harm to the victim's pocket-book because he 
paid about five times as much for that dose of salts as it was 

H. M. (Ovaltine) Blackett. Mr. Blackett is president of 
Blackett-Sample-Hummert, a Chicago advertising agency. 
His pet account is Ovaltine, that mysterious "Swiss" drink 
which puts you to "sleep without drugs" and performs many 
miracles with underweight children, nursing mothers, busy 


workers and old people. "Food and drug advertising," Mr. 
Blackett writes to magazine and newspaper publishers, "is dif- 
ferent from other classifications. It must actually sell the 
product. It must put up a strong selling story strong enough 
to actually move the goods off the dealers' shelves." More 
briefly, Mr. Blackett believes it would be impossible to sell a 
"chocolate-flavored, dried malt extract containing a small 
quantity of dried milk and egg" for what it really is at 
least for a dollar a can. 

William P. (Jacob's Ladder) Jacobs. Mr. Jacobs is president 
of Jacobs' Religious List, which would appear to represent the 
alliance of the fundamentalist business and the proprietary- 
medicine business. As a publishers* representative of the 
"official organs of the leading white denominations of the 
South and Southeast," he offers a combined weekly circulation 
of 300,317 to the God-fearing manufacturers of Miller's 
Snake Oil (makes rheumatic sufferers jump out of bed and 
run back to work), kidney medicines, rejuvenators ("Would 
you like to again enjoy life?"), contraceptives (presumably 
for an equally holy purpose) , reducing agents and hair-grow- 
ers. Mr. Jacobs is secretary and general manager of the Insti- 
tute of Medicine Manufacturers; he is, in fact, a member of 
the old Southern patent-medicine aristocracy. His father, J. 
F. Jacobs, was author of a profound treatise on "The Eco- 
nomic Necessity and the Moral Validity of the Prepared Medi- 
cine Business." 

/. Houston Goudiss. Mr. Goudiss appears to be the missing 
link in the menagerie of medicine men, vitamin men, and 
ad-men who crowd the big tent of the Washington lobby and 
do Chautauqua work in the field. On November i6th last he 
appeared before the convention of the New York State Fed- 
eration of Women's Clubs, donned the mantle of the late Dr. 
Harvey W. Wiley, and begged his hearers to oppose the Tug- 
well Bill. He said in part: 

So far as I am known to the American public, I am known as 
a crusader for the better health of our people. . . . Early in my 
career I came under the benign influence of the late Dr. Harvey W. 
Wiley. I was privileged to support him in his work . . . Were Dr. 
Wiley alive today, I am sure that he would be standing here instead 
of me. And if I presume to wear his mantle, it is because I feel 
that the great urgency of the situation calls upon me to do so. ... 
When I was first informed that our Congress was ready to consider 
a new pure food and drugs law ... I was exultant. . . . Later 
when I read the proposed law . . . my heart fell with foreboding. 
I recognized it as only another overzealous measure like our unhappy 
Eighteenth Amendment and the Volstead Act. . . . The Tugwell 
Bill is fraught with danger. . . . 

About that Harvey W. Wiley mantle the widow of Dr. 
Wiley, in the course of an eloquent plea for the Tugwell Bill 
at the December hearing, said: "I have never heard Dr. Wiley 
mention Mr. C. Houston Goudiss, and inquiry at the Depart- 
ment of Agriculture discloses the fact that no correspondence 
between Dr. Wiley and Mr. Goudiss between 1905 and 1911, 
when Dr. Wiley resigned, is on file." 

And now about Mr. Goudiss himself: He publishes the 
Forecast, a monthly magazine full of vitamin chatter not un- 
related to Mr. Goudiss's activities as broadcaster over Station 
WOR for various and sundry food products. He is author of 
Eating Vitamins and other books also of a signed advertise- 
ment for Phillips' Milk of Magnesia. His Elmira speech was 
promptly sent out as a press release by the Proprietary Asso- 
ciation, and he also fought the Tugwell Bill over the radio. 

The organizational set-up of the drug men, the food men, 
the medicine men, and the ad-men is almost as complicated 
as that of the Insull holding companies. At the top sits the 
High Council of the Drug Institute, an association of asso- 
ciations, formed originally to fight the cut-rate drug stores. 
The Proprietary Association, the Institute of Medicine Manu- 
facturers, and the United Medicine Manufacturers, all have 


booths in this big tent. The last-named organization came 
right out in the open, whooping, yelling, and rattling the 
wampum belt. The Food and Drug Administration knows 
them well, and the public would know them better if this 
department of government were authorized by law to publi- 
cize its files. Here are a few of the most eminent and vocal 
patriots and purity gospelers: 

President J. M. (Toma Tablets) Ewing. Toma Tablets are 
innocuously labeled, but advertised for stomach ulcers, The 
advertising clause of the Copeland Bill is what is worrying 
Mr. Ewing. 

Vice President I. R. (Health Questions Answered) Black- 
burn. Mr. Clinton Robb, the legal magician for the U. M. 
M. A., fixed up the labels of the Blackburn products, which 
rejoice in a string of notices of judgment. These products are 
sold through an advertising column headed "Health Ques- 
tions Answered." You write to Dr. Theodore Beck, who an- 
swers the questions in this column, and the good doctor in- 
forms you that one or more of the Blackburn products is good 
for what ails you. It's as simple as that. 

Vice President George Reese is at present slightly handi- 
capped in selling venereal-disease remedies by the seizure by 
the Food and Drug Administration a month ago of one of his 
nostrums not the first action of this kind, judging by the 
notices of judgment against this firm. 

Vice President Earl E. (Syl-vette) Runner can boast a dozen 
or more notices of judgment against his many products, the 
most prominent of which, Syl-vette, was seized only a short 
time ago. This "reducing agent" is a cocoa-sugar beverage that 
keeps your stomach from feeling too empty while a diet does 
the slenderizing. 

D. A. (Gallstones) Lundy, of the Board of Managers of the 
U. M. M. A., advertises: "Gallstones. Don't operate. You make 
a bad condition worse. Treat the cause in a sensible, painless, 
inexpensive way at home." But, alas, the proposed new law 


forbids the advertising of any drug for gallstones, declaring 
the disease to be one for which self -medication is especially 
dangerous. Perhaps this explains Mr. Lundy's fervid letters to 
Senators demanding the dismissal and prosecution of Chief 
Campbell of the Food and Drug Administration on the ground 
that the latter has been improperly spending the Federal Gov- 
ernment's money for propaganda. 

William M. (Nue-Ovo) Krause, of the membership com- 
mittee of the U. M. M. A. Mr. Krause's Research Laboratories, 
Inc., of Portland, Oregon, labeled Nue-Ovo as a cure for 
rheumatism until 1929 when the Food and Drug Administra- 
tion seized the product and forced a change of the label. 
Nue-Ovo is still widely advertised in the West as a cure for 
rheumatism and arthritis. 

Kenneth (Vogue Powder) Muir, of the Board of Managers 
of the U. M. M. A. When Mr. Muir's Vogue Antiseptic Pow- 
der was seized in 1930, it was being recommended not only 
for genito-urinary affections of men and women but also in 
the treatment of diphtheria. 

T. S. (Renton's Hydrocine Tablets) Strong, of the Board 
of Managers of the U. M. M. A., is a partner in Strong, Cobb 
& Company of Cleveland, pharmaceutical chemists who 
manufacture products for other concerns. There are notices of 
judgment against venereal-disease remedies and a contracep- 
tive manufactured by them. This firm also makes Renton's 
Hydrocine Tablets, a cinchophen product sold for rheuma- 
tism to which, according to the American Medical Associa- 
tion, many deaths have been directly traced. 

C. C. (Kow-Kare) Parlin. For months now Mr. Parlin, re- 
search director of the Curtis Publishing Company, assumed 
much of the task of mobilizing and directing the hetero- 
geneous but impassioned hosts of purity gospelers that fought 
the Tugwell Bill. Mr. Parlin is a statistician, a highbrow, and 
no end respectable. Moreover, he represents, indirectly at 
least, the Ladies 9 Home Journal and the Country Gentleman. 


In their February, 1934, issues both of these Curtis proper- 
ties published editorials, written in language strikingly simi- 
lar to Mr. Parlin's recent speeches and signed writings, to the 
effect that in their advertising pages they had struggled to be 
pure well, pure enough and that the new bill was just 
painting the lily. 

How pure is pure? The February issue of the Country 
Gentleman contains advertisements of several products which 
would be subject to prophylactic treatment if an effective 
law against misleading advertising were passed. The Feb- 
ruary issue of the Ladies' Home Journal, which says that for 
more than a generation it has "exercised what we consider 
to be proper supervision over all copy offered for our pages," 
contains advertisements of at least eight products whose 
claims would require modification if the proposed bill became 
law. The Ladies 9 Home Journal's "pure-enough" list includes 
Pepsodent, Fleischmann's Yeast, Ovaltine, Listerine, Vapex, 
Musterole, Vicks Vapo Rub, and Pond's creams. In addition 
to some of the foregoing, the Country Gentleman stands back 
of advertisements of Ipana, Toxite, Sergeant's Dog Medicines, 
Bag Balm, and Kow-Kare. Concerning the last-named prod- 
uct, the fact-minded veterinary of the Food and Drug Ad- 
ministration comments as follows: 

This used to be sold as Kow-Kure, which purported to be a 
remedy for contagious abortion, until trouble threatened with the 
Pure Food and Drug Administration. No drug or combination of 
drugs has any remedial value in treating contagious abortion. The 
danger of these nostrums is that the farmer relies upon them. 

There is one obvious lack in the foregoing list of purity 
gospelers. It includes no women. We therefore hasten to pre- 
sent Gertrude B. Lane, editor of the Woman's Home Com- 

In the Woman's Home Companion's "index of products 


advertised," the statement is made that "the appearance in 
Woman's Home Companion is a specific warranty of the 
product advertised and of the integrity of the house spon- 
soring the advertisement." Why, then, did Miss Lane oppose 
the bill? Was she alarmed by the fact that the Woman's Home 
Companion publishes as pure some of the same misleading 
advertisements that appear in the Ladies' Home Journal, al- 
ready referred to, and that would be embarrassed by the 
advertising provision of the Copeland Bill? It is a great in- 
dustry: women editors, publication statisticians, ad-men, vita- 
min men, medicine men, cosmeticians, all in the same boat 
and rowing for dear life against a rising tide of public opinion 
which demands that this grotesque, collusive parody of manu- 
facturing, distributing and publishing services be compelled 
to make some sort of sense and decency no matter how much 
deflation of vested interests is required. 





THE inevitable conflict between the idea of capitalist "re- 
form" and the idea of capitalist "recovery" emerged most 
sharply in the drive for commodity standards initiated by the 
more liberal members of Mr. Roosevelt's official family. These 
liberals loudly denounced as "Reds" by the patent medicine, 
drug and food lobby achieved a somewhat insecure footing 
in the Consumers' Advisory Board of the NRA and in the 
Department of Agriculture under the leadership of Assistant 
Secretary Tugwell. 

It seems clear that in the beginning the Consumers' Ad- 
visory Board of the NRA and the Consumers' Counsel of the 
AAA were conceived of as decorative ingredients, designed to 
float around harmlessly in the otherwise strictly capitalist 
alphabet soup of the New Deal. Under no circumstances were 
they supposed to challenge the rule of business as administered 
by the Industrial Advisory Board, backed by the Trade Asso- 
ciations and the Chambers of Commerce. General Johnson's 
job was to ride herd on the unregenerate forces of Big Busi- 
ness and induce them, by alternate threats and pleadings, to 
save themselves and the country. 

It was a tough assignment, and not the least of General 
Johnson's embarrassments was the disposition of the Con- 
sumers' Advisory Board and Professor Tugwell's group in the 
Department of Agriculture to clarify and fortify the soup of 


the New Deal with some stronger functional plans and pro- 

The first blow-off came in the summer, when Professor 
Ogburn, of the University of Chicago, resigned his appoint- 
ment to the Consumers' Advisory Board on the ground that 
a price- and wage-raising program, unregulated by a statisti- 
cal reporting service, was dangerous, and that he had neither 
authority nor funds to establish such a statistical control. 
This was followed by mutinous murmurs from the remaining 
members of the Consumers' Advisory Board to the effect that 
their carefully prepared and devasting briefs in behalf of 
the consumer frequently got no further than General John- 
son's desk; further, that Charles Michelson, sitting at the 
publicity bottle-neck of the NRA, saw to it that the press 
got only such denatured releases from the Consumers' Ad- 
visory Board as would not disturb the equanimity of the 
dominant business interests. 

What the Consumers' Advisory Board and Professor Tug- 
well's group were trying to do, of course, was to prevent the 
American people, as consumers, from being ground between 
the lag of wages behind the increase in prices this trend 
being more and more apparent as the NRA codes, with their 
open or concealed price-fixing provisions, went into effect. 
The difficulty was that the consumer was a somewhat novel 
and unsubstantial entity in the New Deal economics. Like 
Mr. Throttlebottom, in "Of Thee I Sing," he was the man 
nobody knows, although it was precisely he whom business 
was theoretically set up to serve. If the Labor Advisory Board 
had wished to do so, it might well have contended that labor 
and the consumer are substantially identical. But it was ap- 
parent from the beginning that the Labor Advisory Board 
represented not the rank and file of labor, but the American 
Federation of Labor officialdom, which was if anything less 
radical than Big Business itself. 

Hence the Consumers' Advisory Board was without allies 


at Washington and without the support of an organized 
pressure group outside Washington. One may doubt that the 
Chairman of the CAB, Mrs. Mary Harriman Rumsey, had 
any notion of the political dynamite which any serious at- 
tempt to discharge the ostensible functions of the board 
would explode. But on the board were Dr. Robert Lynd, 
co-author of Middletown and author of a penetrating study 
of the economics of consumption contributed to Recent Social 
Trends, Dr. Walton Hamilton, Yale economist, and author 
of an iconoclastic dissenting opinion embodied in the Report 
of the Committee on the Costs of Medical Care, and Dr. 
James Warbasse, chairman of the Board of the Co-operative 
League. And the staff of the CAB, headed by Dexter M. 
Keezer, formerly of the Baltimore Sun, assayed a rather high 
degree of sophistication both as to economics and politics. 
For months both the board and its staff were consistently 
rebuffed and slighted by General Johnson, and their press 
releases were carefully censored by Publicity Director Michel- 
son. But they continued to submit briefs at code hearings, and 
these briefs, although largely disregarded, kept the issues alive. 
And in connection with the hearings on the Tugwell-Copeland 
Pure Food and Drug Bill, there came another blow-off. 

One of the most loudly mouthed charges of the patent 
medicine lobby was that the Tugwell Bill was "anti-NRA", 
in that it would embarrass the activities of nostrum makers, 
and reduce the income of newspapers, magazines and broad- 
casters which sold advertising space and time on the air to 
these nostrum makers. In the middle of the hearings, Dr. 
Lynd was called over from the Consumers' Advisory Board 
to answer this charge. 

Apparently it had never occurred to the assembled medi- 
cine men, drug men, food men and cosmeticians, that the 
Consumers' Advisory Board could be anything but the cus- 
tomary make-believe with which business-as-usual cloaks its 
simple acquisitive motivations. Hence the consternation of 


these lobbyists as Dr. Lynd proceeded deftly and suavely to 
invoke the pale ghost of the ultimate consumer to bring Mr. 
Throttlebottom to life. 

"Do you see what I see?'* said the ad-men to the patent 
medicine men. And the drug men, the cosmeticians, the vita- 
min men of the food industry, and the Fourth Estate all 
chimed in on a chorus of denunciation that became more 
and more hysterical as the hearings proceeded. 

They saw that the drive of the Consumers' Advisory Board 
of the NRA to get consumer representation on the Code 
Authorities and quality standards inserted in the codes, the 
effort of the Consumers' Counsel of the AAA (headed by 
Dr. Fred C. Howe) to insert quality standards in the food 
processing and other agreements which it was then nego- 
tiating, and the controls and penalties embodied in the Tug- 
well Bill, especially the quality standards provisions, were all 
co-ordinate elements in the attempt of the President's left- 
wing advisers to do right by Mr. Throttlebottom, Mrs. 
Throttlebottom and the children. 

From the point of view of business-as-usual, this senti- 
mentalism about the consumer is the sin against the holy 
ghost, nothing less. Business, especially the interlocked drug, 
cosmetic, food and advertising businesses, is organized to do 
Mr. Throttlebottom right, and the difference is more than a 
matter of phrasing. 

Amidst audible grinding of teeth by the assembled ad-men, 
Dr. Lynd argued from the premises of "quality merchandise," 
"service" and "truth in advertising" to which Printers' Ink 
and other organs of the advertising business have long pro- 
claimed allegiance. Today, he pointed out, in view of the elab- 
orate fabrication of commodities, the widespread use of 
synthetic materials and current packaging processes, fair 
competition, the avowed objective of the NRA, must include 
both quality competition and price competition. For example, 
the AAA had found that the milk agreements, in order to 


quote price at all, had also to quote butter fat. In nearly 
every line of merchandizing, a similar need exists for quality 
standards on which to base price competition. In fact, some 
of the producers and growers, such as the citrus fruit, rice 
millers, and cling-peach canners, had actually asked for qual- 
ity grades in the AAA agreements. 

The object of the NRA, continued Dr. Lynd, is to increase 
net buying power, which means that it must not only in- 
crease wages but stop losses through substandard buying. Both 
government and industry avoid such losses by buying on 
specification. Should not consumers the 30,000,000 families 
who in 1929 spent 60 per cent of the national income over 
retail counters know what they are buying? Under the New 
Deal, labor, the consumer and government are recognized as 
co-partners in American industry. The proposed Food and 
Drug Bill, like the demand for quality standards in the re- 
covery codes, represents a simple and necessary aid to the 
isolated consumer in his difficult and largely helpless effort 
to compete on an equal footing with the massed resources 
of industry. 

Note how carefully Dr. Lynd kept within the theoretical 
zone of agreement. None the less the ad-men and their allies 
lost no time in putting him on the spot. The December I4th 
issue of Printers' Ink. headlined a mangled version of his state- 
ment: "Opposes NRA, SAYS Lynd", and in the Dec. 2ist 
issue Mr. Roy Dickinson, president of Printers' Ink, declared: 

... it is my firm belief that Professor Lynd's plans in the Con- 
sumers' Advisory Board, in connection with the Consumers' Board 
of the AAA, are a definite threat to the success of the whole NRA 
program. His scheme of attempting at this time to change the whole 
system of distribution of trade-marked, advertised merchandise, is a 
distinct menace to the whole industrial machine out of which wages, 
profits and government taxes must come. Both President Roosevelt 
and General Johnson have publicly expressed themselves that in- 


creased advertising of quality branded merchandise is an integral 
and essential part of the whole recovery program. Professor Lynd 
. . . would attack over a wide front the whole system on which 
not only advertising but profits depend. Which viewpoint is truly 
representative of the Administration attitude? It is time that adver- 
tisers, publishers and all other industries dependent on advertising 
were told what they may expect, and get ready to fight for their 
existence if the Lynd viewpoint is representative. 

One gathers from this that Mr. Throttlebottom just 
mustn't know too much, and that any attempt to inform 
him must be scotched before it starts. So Mr. Dickinson 
called out the advertising mob, and with similar warning 
tocsins, the medicine men called out their macabre guerrillas. 
The impression one gains from reading the trade press during 
this period is much like that made by the final reel of a 
gangster melodrama, in which the good-bad gangsters draw 
their rods and "blast their way out." This ferocity becomes 
understandable when we add up what was at stake. 

It has been roughly estimated that about $350,000,000 a 
year was at stake for the advertising business alone. This 
money is paid by advertisers, chiefly through advertising 
agencies which collect commissions, to newspaper and maga- 
zine publishers, broadcasters, car-card and direct by mail 
companies for the advertising of foods, drugs and cosmetics 
theoretically designed to inform and instruct Mr. Throttle- 
bottom, eliminate his halitosis, pep him up with vitamins, and 
otherwise make him a better and more popular fellow. 

But we have already seen that modern advertising repre- 
sents not so much a competitive selling of goods and services 
as a competitive manufacture of consumption habits, the tech- 
nique of this manufacture being essentially a technique of 
"creative psychiatry." What was attacked by the Tugwell 
Bill, and even more, by the attempt to embody quality stand- 
ards in the codes, was this enterprise in "creative psychiatry," 

and the largely irrational and un-economic consumption 
habits which advertisers manufacture and capitalize. In Recent 
Social Trends, Dr. Lynd notes that the Maxwell House Coffee 
habit of the American people was bought in 1928 for 
$42,000,000, and the Jell-O habit in 1925 for $35,000,000. 
The asking price for the Listerine habit and the "Crazy 
Crystal" habit would also doubtless be impressive if we knew 

When the ad-men, the food men, and the drug men howl 
about the brain trust's attack on "the whole system on which 
not only advertising but profits depend," that is the system 
they are howling about, and the loudness of the howl is 
directly proportioned to the size of the howler's stake in the 
matter. The capitalized claims of the food, drug and cosmetic 
advertisers upon the creatively psyched Mr. Throttlebottom's 
shrinking dollar would probably run into billions if accu- 
rately computed. The stake of the advertising business, other- 
wise known as the newspaper, magazine and broadcasting 
business, is smaller, but even more indispensable. Newspapers 
and magazines derive about two thirds of their income from 
advertisers, and somewhere between 40 per cent and 50 per cent 
of this advertising income is contributed by the food, drug, pro- 
prietary medicine and cosmetic advertisers. Naturally the pub- 
lishers and broadcasters and their allies want this creative 
psyching of Mr. Throttlebottom to go right on. Naturally, 
when they contemplate what would happen if quality stand- 
ards were systematically introduced into the codes, they be- 
come hysterical and incoherent. 

In contrast, the functionalists in Washington have been 
almost excessively lucid. In fact, one fears that for all their 
suavity and sweet reasonableness, they have made themselves 
all too clear. For example, they sponsored the work of a com- 
mittee, headed by Dr. Lynd, which has recommended the 
establishment of a Consumers' Standards Board under the 
joint control of the Consumers' Advisory Board of the NRA 


and the Consumers' Counsel of the AAA, with a technical 
director, and a technical staff of commodity experts and an 
interdepartmental advisory committee drawn from Federal 
Bureaus. The budget asked for provided $65,000 for the first 
year for administrative expenses, plus $250,000 for research 
and testing. Dr. Lynd's report quotes that devastating sen- 
tence from the impeccable Hoover's 1922 report as Secretary 
of Commerce: 

The lack of ... established grades and standards of quality adds 
very largely to the cost of distribution because of the necessity of 
buying and selling upon sample and otherwise, and because of the 
risk of fraud and misrepresentation and consequently larger margins 
of trading. 

Still keeping on the safe, sane and conservative territory of 
economic and technical truisms, Dr. Lynd's report goes on 
to quote a 1930 report of the Bureau of Standards: 

Producers are experts in their own commodity fields, but seldom 
does the consumer get the full benefit o this knowledge. Under 
present conditions this group knowledge is suppressed and the tend- 
ency is all too frequent to give the buyer merely what he asks for. 

Moreover, as F. J. Schlink, director of Consumers' Research, 
points out in his "Open Letter to President Roosevelt," "it is 
impossible for a private consumer to secure access to the im- 
mensely valuable findings of the Bureau of Standards, paid 
for in every major respect by general taxation of consumers" 
In this letter Mr. Schlink urges a Department of the Con- 
sumer, with Cabinet representation and equal status with 
other Federal Departments. But even the less sweeping recom- 
mendations of Dr. Lynd's committee were calculated to freeze 
the blood of the embattled ad-men, drug men, cosmeticians, 
vitamin men, etc. According to Dr. Lynd, the standards pro- 
mulgated by the Consumers' Board would not stop at the 


point at which the commercial standards of the Bureau of 
Standards must now stop, i.e., at the type of standards to 
which 65 per cent of the industry is ready to agree, but 
would go on beyond this to a thoroughly satisfactory set of 
consumer grades and labels. Past experience has shown that 
the official promulgation of definite consumer standards, even 
though they go beyond current practice, operates as a norm 
to which competitive business tends to approximate. 

It requires but little imagination to see that what is here 
envisaged is a fundamental reorganization of distribution in 
the direction of function. This would entail a huge deflation 
of the vested interest of advertisers, and of the advertising 
business, in the exploitation of the American consumer; also 
huge economies in both production and distribution. 

Even poor old Throttlebottom should be able to see this if 
there were any way of getting the word to him. There isn't, 
for the reason that our instruments of social communication, 
the daily and periodical press, the radio, are in effect the adver- 
tising business. 

Anybody who wants to fight Mr. Throttlebottom's battles 
in America had better hire a hall or write a book. Advertising 
is the Sacred and Contented Cow of American journalism. 
Any irresponsible naturalist who attempts to lead that cow 
into the editorial office of any advertising-sustained American 
publication is greeted by hoots of derision. The writer knows, 
because he has tried. Here are a few typical hoots: 

This is an admirable article. Why don't you hire a hall somewhere 
in the Bronx and read it to a lot of people? 

This subject is the Sacred Cow herself and you know it damned 
well. Yet you seem to want old Bossie to commit hara-kiri just 
because she's not a virgin. And what would happen to the kiddies 
then, including yours truly? Sure, I know: man does not live by 
bread alone. There is also butter. I see I've got to teach you the facts 


of life all over again, starting with the bees and the flowers. Mean- 
while, as one professor of animal husbandry to another, go sit on a 

Sorry that this article is not adapted to our present needs. Have 
you any child's verse? 




Problems and Prospects 

"THERE is nothing the matter with advertising," Bruce 
Barton once protested, "that is not the matter with business 
in general." 

Since advertising is, in the end, merely a function of busi- 
ness management, Mr. Barton's statement is true, broadly 
speaking. It might be added that there is nothing the matter 
with business that is not the matter with the professions; 
also, that there is nothing the matter with business and the 
professions except that they are obsolete as practiced under 
the limiting conditions of an obsolete capitalist economy. 
Finally, there is nothing the matter with the machine, with 
industry, except that its productive forces cannot be re- 
leased, and its dehumanizing effects controlled, under a profit 

All these qualified acquittals must be rendered lest the 
edge of criticism seems to bear too sharply and too invidiously 
upon the ad-man. Invidiousness is, of course, the bread of 
life in a competitive capitalist society. It is inevitable, in a 
fragmented civilization, that the fragments should quarrel. 
It is curiously unsatisfying for a man to be honorable and 
respectable in the sight of God. No, his sense of virtue and 
status must be fortified by the conviction that he is more 
honorable, more respectable than other men. 

I have been greatly amused, more than once, by the com- 
placent naivetes of architects, engineers, doctors, dentists, 

3 8r 

"pure" scientists, and "objective" social scientists, who were 
quite prepared to agree with me that advertising is a very 
dirty business. They regarded me, apparently, as a reformed 
crook who was prepared, like a mission convert, to testify 
concerning the satanic iniquities that I had put behind me. 
I have noticed that my replies tend to chill the sympathetic 
interest of such people. I say, first, that I have not wholly 
reformed. Since I intend to maintain myself economically 
in an exploitative economy while it lasts, I expect to enjoy 
the luxury of integrity in strict moderation. I say, second, 
that I am not interested in pouring invidious moral and 
ethical comfort into their pots by telling them how black my 
particular kettle undoubtedly is. 

This invidiousness, these differential judgments, came to 
the surface with a rush when, in the aftermath of the 1929 
stock market crash, the magazine Ballyhoo was launched. 
This development, revealing as it did the catastrophic col- 
lapse of "reader-confidence" in advertising, deserves some 
detailed consideration. 

Whereas the stock in trade of the ordinary mass or class 
consumer magazine is reader-confidence in advertising, the 
stock in trade of Ballyhoo was reader-disgust with advertis- 
ing, and with high-pressure salesmanship in general. Initially 
the magazine carried no paid advertisements. It directed its 
slapstick burlesque primarily at the absurdities of current 
advertising. By October, 1931, its circulation had passed the 
million and a half mark and a score of imitators were flood- 
ing the news stands. 

The editor of Ballyhoo, Mr. Norman Anthony, was for- 
merly one of the editors of Life, and had at various times 
vainly urged that humorous weekly advertising medium to 
bite the hand that fed it by satirizing advertising. The stock 
market collapse, and the consequent reaction against super- 
salesmanship of all kinds, gave Mr. Anthony his opportunity, 
which he seized in realistic commercial fashion. 


In style, Ballyhoo is a kind of monthly Bronx Cheer, bred 
out of New Yorker by Captain Billy's Whizhang. It expresses 
the lowest common denominator of sterile "sophistication," 
and it is still successful, although its circulation, at last re- 
ports, had dropped to approximately half of its 1931 peak. 
And for at least two years it has taken advertising advertis- 
ing designed to sell goods, although adapted to the pattern 
of Ballyhoo's burlesque editorial formula. 

What had apparently happened was this: the frantic ex- 
cesses of the ad-man in the production of customers by 
"creative psychiatry" had created a new market in which 
Mr. Anthony established a pioneering vested interest. This 
new market consisted of a widespread popular demand to 
have advertising burlesqued. Hence Ballyhoo became what 
might be called an enterprise in tertiary parasitism. In the 
present period of capitalist decline, business, as Veblen has 
shown, parasites on the creative forces of industry. Adver- 
tising, as the writer has tried to show in this book (c.f. the 
chapter on "Beauty and the Ad-Man") parasites to a con- 
siderable degree on business. Ballyhoo, in turn, parasites on 
the grotesque, bloated body of advertising. 

Mr. Anthony's enterprise is, of course, strictly commercial. 
When, after its initial success, the owners of the magazine 
desired to two-time their readers in the conventional manner 
of publishing-as-usual, it is reported that Mr. Anthony at 
first objected. But he was over-ruled, and in due course an 
advertisement appeared in Printers' Ink offering advertising 
space in Ballyhoo. 

Without serious injustice the sales talk of Ballyhoo's adver- 
tising manager may be paraphrased as follows: 

"Advertisers: Buy space in Ballyhoo. Of course we bur- 
lesque you and shall continue to do so, whether you buy space 
in the magazine or not. But these burlesques don't hurt your 
business. They help it. True, the saps laugh, but they also 
buy. Think of it! A mob of a million and a half saps, laugh- 


ing and buying! Here they are, packaged and ready to deliver. 
How much do you offer?" 

After this, the hostility with which many advertisers and 
many advertising-supported publications had regarded Bally- 
hoo began to subside. What if Mr. Anthony's publication was, 
in a sense, a parasitic enterprise? He was smart. Ballyhoo had 
got away with it. And forthwith they proceeded to imitate 

More and more, advertising began to step out of its part and 
kid itself. The single column, cartoon-illustrated campaign 
for Sir Walter Raleigh Smoking Tobacco is an early example 
of this trend. The early copy, particularly, was an obvious 
burlesque of the Listerine halitosis-shame copy. Other adver- 
tisers picked up the idea, especially radio advertisers. Ed 
Wynn's kidding of Fire Chief gasoline is an excellent example 
of the application of burlesque to the production of customers. 
More and more, it is the fashion to make radio sales talk al- 
legedly more palatable by infecting the whole program with 
burlesque advertising asides. 

Even the preview advertising in the motion picture theatres 
is beginning to betray a similar infection. For example, the 
preview promotion of George White's Scandals consisted of 
a genuinely amusing satire of the hackneyed extravagances 
of motion picture advertising. The Jewish comedian who 
played the role of assistant impresario was sternly forbidden 
by Mr. White to use the words "stupendous," "gigantic" and 
"colossal" in describing the wonders of the new show. Driven 
to desperation by this cruel stifling of commercial enthu- 
siasm, the comedian threatened to shoot himself, and did so. 
His dying words are: "George White's Scandals is a stupen- 
dous, gigantic, and colossal show." 

It is contended by the broadcasters, and doubtless also by 
the movie producers, that this burlesque sales promotion takes 
the curse out of sales talk, and this is probably true to a 
degree. But the prevalence of the trend gives rise to certain 


ominous suspicions. In every decadent period, satire and 
burlesque tend to become the dominant artistic forms. When 
the burlesque comedian mounts the pulpit in the Church of 
Advertising, it may be legitimately suspected that the edifice 
is doomed; that it will shortly be torn down or converted to 
secular uses. 

Confirmation of this suspicion appears in the current role 
of the advertising trade press, indeed of the trade press in 
general. The writer has had occasion to note that his con- 
tributions on the subject of advertising were not welcomed 
by consumer publications supported by advertising. In con- 
trast, the trade press has given space to forthright radical 
attacks upon the advertising business both by the writer and 
by other critics of advertising such as Dr. Robert Lynd, 
F. J. Schlink and others. 

This is less surprising than it might seem at first sight. 
Both Advertising and Selling and Printers 9 Ink have at first 
times built their circulations by crusading for "truth in ad- 
vertising," the prohibition of bought-and-paid-for testimo- 
nials, and other items of pragmatic advertising morality. More- 
over, their readers want to know what the dastardly enemies 
of advertising are doing and thinking, and who is in a better 
position to tell them than these very miscreants themselves? 

This brings us to a consideration of the agitation for gov- 
ernment grading of staple products, which is the chief threat 
by which the advertising business is now menaced. It met 
and defeated this threat by deleting the standards clause from 
the original Tugwell Bill. But the same threat popped up at 
every code hearing and in Dr. Lynd's report urging the 
establishment of a Consumers' Standards Board, which was 
followed by F. J. Schlink's more sweeping demand for a 
Department of the Consumer with representation in the 

To defeat the raid of the New Deal reformers on the adver- 
tising business, the food, drug, cosmetics and advertising 


interests concentrated in Washington a lobby reliably esti- 
mated to be from three to four times as big as any other 
Washington lobby in history. Yet in spite of this huge effort 
the Copeland Bill, after successive revisions by the Senate 
Commerce committee, emerged with a number of its smaller 
teeth still intact, and conceivably it may be passed by the 
time this book appears. 

An ironic aspect of the matter was the dual role played by 
Senator Copeland, as broadcaster for Fleischmann's Yeast 
and Nujol, and as sponsor of a bill which would, if passed, 
have definitely limited the advertising activities of his com- 
mercial employers. On March 3ist, Arthur Kallet, Secretary 
of Consumers' Research, who, with F. J. Schlink, had ably 
and energetically defended the consumer interest in Wash- 
ington in connection with the Tugwell and Copeland Bills, 
the censorship and suppression of the Consumers' Advisory 
Board, etc., signed a circular letter urging the defeat of the 
emasculated Copeland Bill and the mobilizing of consumer 
support of the Consumers' Research Bill (H.R. 8313). 
Enclosed was the following statement by the Emergency Con- 
ference of Consumer Organizations. 

"The Fleischmann Yeast Company, probably to an extent greater 
than almost any other national advertiser, would be affected ad- 
versely by the original Tugwell Food and Drug Bill. This bill has 
been twice revised by Senator Royal S. Copeland, who is employed 
by the Fleischmann Yeast Company at a high fee in connection 
with its weekly advertising broadcast. 

"The original Tugwell Bill was far too weak to afford adequate 
consumer protection, and the Copeland-revised Bill is so much 
weaker from the consumer viewpoint that it should be thrown 
out entirely and new legislation substituted. This cannot be ac- 
complished unless it is driven home to the public that there is 
probably only one man in Congress who is and has been employed 
by manufacturers of dubious drug products, and that this person 
has, for some curious reason, been placed in charge of food and 


drug regulatory legislation. The twice revised bill shows that Dr. 
Copeland has taken excellent advantage of the opportunity thus 
afforded him to emasculate the original bill. 

"The Tugwell Bill was introduced by Dr. Copeland at the last 
session of Congress. It was turned over to a sub-committee of the 
Senate Interstate Commerce Committee (where consumer-protec- 
tive legislation certainly does not belong). The sub-committee con- 
sisted of Senator Copeland as chairman, Senator McNary (a fruit 
grower who would also be adversely affected by the bill) and Sena- 
tor Hat tie Caraway. This sub-committee held public hearings early 
in December. During the two-day hearings, Senators Copeland and 
McNary's antagonism to the best features of the bill was manifest. 
Moreover, while representatives of the manufacturers whose fraudu- 
lent and dangerous activities were to be controlled were given 
every opportunity to attack the proposed bill, not a single consumer 
was given a hearing until within two hours of the close of the 
session. Senator Copeland's commercial connections were pointed 
out by representatives of Consumers' Research, and new hearings 
under an impartial chairman were demanded, but this demand was 
ignored. It is noteworthy that at the end of the first day's session, 
Dr. Copeland went from the hearings to a broadcasting studio to 
speak on behalf of Fleischmann's Yeast. 

"The Senator is now and has in the past been employed by other 
advertisers who would be adversely affected by the Tugwell Bill, 
among them the Sterling Products Company, and the makers of 

"The broadcasts for Fleischmann's Yeast were begun after the 
Senator introduced the Tugwell Bill. For a Senator to accept com- 
pensation from an organization affected by pending legislation is a 
violation of a criminal law, if there is any intent to affect the 
legislation. While intent cannot in this case be proved, there is 
clearly a violation of the spirit of the law." 

Supplementing this statement, it may be noted that a busi- 
ness organization known as the Copeland Service, Inc., oc- 
cupies the office at 250 W. j/th Street adjoining the office of 
Senator Copeland. The president of this organization is Mr. 


Ole Salthe, who in an interview with the writer on April 5th 
undertook to describe the nature of this business. A brief 
advertising folder issued by Copeland Service, Inc., offers the 
following services: 

Laboratory Service 

Including chemical and bacteriological examinations. Clinical 
and biological tests, particularly in relation to the improvement 
of present products or the development of new products. 

Radio Programs and Lectures 

Dr. Royal S. Copeland and a staff of experienced radio speakers 
are available to manufacturers of meritorious food and drug prod- 
ucts. These speakers can talk authoritatively on health, food, diet 
and nutrition, and insure broadcasts that are interesting and pro- 
ductive of sales. 

Labels and Printed Matter 

Wide experience in the revision and preparation of labels and 
printed matter concerning claims made for food and drug products 
so as to conform to municipal, State and Federal Laws. 

Special Articles 

Relating to health, food, diet and nutrition written in a popular 
style for general distribution. 

Market and Field Surveys 

Staff of experienced investigators in the food and drug industries 
are available. 

Dr. Salthe was for twenty years in the employ of the New 
York City Department of Health, being director of the di- 
yision of foods and drugs when he retired in 1924. In 1925 
he became president of Copeland Service, Inc., with which 
Royal S. Copeland Jr. is also now connected. Dr. Salthe de- 
clared that aside from broadcasting services for Fleischmann's 
Yeast and Stance, makers of Nujol and Cream of Nujol, 


Copeland Service, Inc., had no clients. Did I know of any 
prospects? Dr. Sal the earnestly denied any connection what- 
ever between the Senator's sponsorship of the food and drug 
bill and his role as a radio artist for Yeast and Nujol. Cope- 
land Service, Inc., he said, was trying to put on a sustaining 
program over N.B.C. stations in which the Senator would 
give "constructive educational talks on food buying, includ- 
ing the mentioning of worthy products." 

Consumers of foods, drugs and cosmetics are invited to 
decide what is wrong with this picture and to extract what- 
ever wry amusement they can from it. 

Obviously, neither the emasculated Copeland Bill, nor the 
original Tugwell Bill, nor even the Consumers' Research Bill 
represent a direct functional approach to the economic and 
social problems involved, because no such approach is pos- 
sible within the framework of the capitalist economy. All 
that is possible is to set up more and more rigid legal and 
administrative controls over the exploitative activities of 
business. The Consumers' Research Bill goes the limit in this 
direction. Under its provisions manufacturers of drugs and 
cosmetics, and of food products potentially dangerous to 
health, would be licensed and bonded; only approved prod- 
ucts could be manufactured; all labels and advertising claims 
would have to be approved by a board of experts. 

The bill is well calculated to freeze the blood of the ad- 
men, drug men, vitamin men and cosmeticians. Incidentally, 
it constitutes an excellent reductio ad absurdum of the whole 
idea of progress by reform, capitalist planning, etc. Obviously, 
it would be much simpler to socialize pharmacy, medicine 
and the production and distribution of foods, and, also ob- 
viously, no such socialization could be achieved without a 
social revolution. 

The most serious challenge to advertisers, and to the ad- 
vertising business is, of course, embodied in the agitation for 
government grading conducted by the Consumers' Advisory 


Board, the Consumers' Counsel of the AAA, and from the 
outside by Consumers' Research. Here, too, the maximum 
result to be attained within the framework of the capitalist 
economy would still leave untouched the major contradictions 
of capitalism. The agitation is none the less important and 
fruitful. The demand for government grading of consumers' 
goods cannot be successfully argued against, even from the 
premises of competitive capitalism. The promulgation of 
quality standards and their control would be necessary gov- 
ernment functions in any economy. Significantly, the agita- 
tion for standards has brought to light serious cleavages 
between the vested interests affected. 

Between the manufacturers and the consumer stand the 
big distributors, the mail order houses, the department stores, 
and the chain stores. They tend increasingly to sell house 
products rather than advertised brands. They represent the 
more nearly efficient and functional agencies of distribution 
under capitalism. They are powerful, and they object to 
being squeezed by manufacturers, either through high prices 
or lowered standards. 

In the course of General Johnson's field day for critics 
last March, Irving C. Fox, secretary of the National Retail 
Dry Goods Association, in addition to protesting against 
price rises, revealed that within a week or two after the codes 
went into effect, with provisions prohibiting returns after 
five days, the quality of merchandise became much lower 
than prior to the adoption of these provisions. Chain store, 
mail order and department store buyers, and buyers for 
municipal, State and Federal departments, have been, in all 
probability, the most effective allies of the Consumers' Ad- 
visory Board in the fight against high prices and lowered 
standards. Not that the consumer standards movement has 
got anywhere to date. In one of the reports of the Consumers' 
Advisory Board, Prof. Robert Brady testified that 


"Of the first 220 codes, which cover the most important Amer- 
ican industries, only about 70 contain clauses having anything to 
do with standards, grading or labeling. Most of these clauses are 
absolutely worthless from the point of view of the consuming 
interests. In some cases they are so vague that they permit anything 
and condone everything. In some cases they are positively vicious in 
that they may be used covertly for price fixing purposes and even 
practically to compel the lowering of quality. In four cases, for 
example, the code authority is instructed to declare that the giving 
of guarantees beyond a certain point is an unfair trade practice,, 
whereas most of the industries affected have long been accustomed 
to give and live up to guaranties far beyond these points." 

For confirmation of this statement we have only to turn 
to the Journal of Commerce for April 13, 1934, from which 
the following quotation is taken: 

"Substitution of lower quality for standard products continues 
on a substantial scale and prevents consumers from realizing the 
full import of price increases that have taken place. 

"Retail prices in many lines have been arrived at after study 
and experience with mass buying habits. Merchants conclude, 
therefore, that they must preserve these established price levels 
even at the cost of sacrificing quality, to maintain their physical 
volume of sales. 

"This reasoning has been found so practical and effective in many 
instances that manufacturers of branded and trade-marked mer- 
chandise have been adopting the same policy in increasing numbers, 
it is reported. In some cases, manufacture of the previous standard 
quality is being given up altogether. In some other instances goods 
meeting the old specifications are being sold under a new branded 
name at a higher price." 


In the light of all these developments, the advertising pro- 
fession is bound to contemplate its future with alarm and 


foreboding. Where business in general fears the still remote 
prospect of social revolution, the advertising business faces 
deflation through the inevitable and already well-begun proc- 
esses of industrial cartelization, of capitalist "rationalization," 
which here, as in Italy, Germany, and in England are bound 
to enforce a lower standard of living upon the masses of the 

At the last convention of the Association of National Ad- 
vertisers, Dr. Walter B. Pitkin, Professor of the School of 
Journalism at Columbia University, played Cassandra to the 
assembled ad-men by adding up the costs of the depression 
to advertising. "To begin with," said Dr. Pitkin, "we are 
left with between 60 and 64 million people at or below the 
subsistence level." These are "extra-economic men" as far as 
the advertising business is concerned. The arts of "creative 
psychiatry" are wasted on them because their buying power 
is negligible. The average annual per capita income is down 
to $276. If from this is subtracted an average of $77 for fixed 
debt charges, we are left with an average of per capita ex- 
pendible income of $199. Multiply this by four and we have 
$800 as the family average. 

But Dr. Pitkin had worse horrors than this to reveal. He 
believes that even if we have recovery sufficient to bring 
about a return of the pre-depression income levels, this re- 
covery will not be accompanied by similar spending. Not 
only are there between 60 and 64 million "extra-economic 
Americans outside the money and profit system," but they 
don't want to get back into this system. Dr. Pitkin cited 
examples of middle class professional people, who, having 
become adapted to the shock of having to live on eighteen 
dollars a week, were content with what they had; at least 
they were unashamed, since so many of their friends were in 
a similar condition. Dr. Pitkin sums up the problem con- 
fronting the advertising profession as follows: 


"You have got not merely the problem of scheming to get peo- 
ple's income up, but you have got the problem of breaking down 
what you might call a degenerate type of social prestige, and that 
is a new problem in advertising and selling, it is a new problem in 
merchandising which not one manufacturer in the United States 
has yet attempted to face.*' 

In passing it might be noted that as a result of the "schem- 
ing to get people's income up" as conducted by the indus- 
trialists who wrote the codes, some of whom were in Dr. 
Pitkin's audience, the volume of goods sold in February, 
1934, was apparently from 6 to 8 per cent less than in 
February, 1933. 

The assembled advertising men fired questions at Dr. Pit- 
kin. They begged this earnest savant for some hope, for 
some way of "meeting the issue." This is what they got: 

"We have seen advertising in the last twenty-five years develop 
from local commodity advertising, next to trade advertising, then 
institutional advertising of a whole domain of businesses. . . . 
Those are merely the first movements in a direction toward which 
we must go a long way further. You have got to go beyond insti- 
tutional advertising to some new kind of philosophy of life adver- 
tising. I don't know any better expression for it than that, but 
what I mean is that you have got to sell an enormous number of 
people in the United States, people of power, people of intelligence 
as well as the down-and-outs; you have got to sell them the con- 
ception very clearly of the American standard of living as we used 
to think of it, and have a return to it with all that it implies." 

If this seems fantastic under the circumstances, I can only 
point out that among advertising men in general, Dr. Pitkin 
is regarded as a top-leader intellectual. The ad-men were made 
pretty unhappy on this occasion, for they couldn't see how 
they were going to carry out Dr. Pitkin's recommendations. 
In effect, what he said was: "What you need is more adver- 
tising." And they knew that before. 


Advertising men are indeed very unhappy these days, very 
nervous, with a kind of apocalyptic expectancy. Often when 
I have lunched with an agency friend, a half dozen worried 
copy writers and art directors have accompanied us. Inva- 
riably they want to know when the revolution is coming, and 
where will they get off if it does come. 

The other day I encountered a very eminent advertising 
man indeed, emerging from an ex-speakeasy. He hailed me 
jovially and put the usual question: "How's the revolution 

"Rather badly," I replied. "Although I think you and your 
crowd are certainly doing your bit." 

"You're damned right," replied this advertising magnifico. 
"I've got a big white horse. I call him 'Comrade.' And when 
the revolution comes, I'll be right out in front: 'Comrade 

With a sudden chill I reflected that, given the sort of mass 
moronism which the advertising business has been manufac- 
turing for these many years, something of the sort might 
conceivably happen. What that eminent ad -man thought of 
as "revolution" was, of course, Fascism. I venture to pre- 
dict that when a formidable Fascist movement develops in 
America, the ad-men will be right up in front; that the 
American versions of Minister of Propaganda and Enlighten- 
ment Goebels (the man whom wry-lipped Germans have 
Christened "Wotan's Mickey Mouse") will be both numerous 
and powerful.